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Muslim prayers at UVic Multifaith Centre cancelled after threatening notes

Custodial staff found the notes on the doors of the centre in the early hours of Friday
Threatening notes were found Friday on the doors of the Multifaith Centre at the University of Victoria. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Friday Muslim prayers at the University of Victoria’s Multi­faith Centre and two Islamic lectures on Saturday were cancelled by campus security after “threatening notes” were discovered on the doors of the building, a UVic security official said.

In a statement, campus security services director Jess Maclean said custodial staff found the two notes on the doors in the early hours of Friday. The notes were immediately removed and campus security was notified shortly before 8:30 a.m., the statement said.

“Campus Security worked with Student Wellness and police to assess the risk and, out of an abundance of caution, we decided to close the Multifaith Centre for the remainder of the day.”

Two Islamic lectures, or Halaqas, advertised as open to those curious about Islam, were cancelled on Saturday. The centre reopened its doors Monday.

Maclean, who was unavailable for an interview on Monday, did not specify the contents of the notes. “We have not and do not plan on amplifying the message as we feel doing so has the potential to escalate the risk and/or cause further harm to our community,” she said in the statement.

The Times Colonist has seen an image of one of the notes, which contains text in English, Hebrew and Arabic and targets the Islamic faith.

The incident was referred by the university to Oak Bay police.

Deputy Chief Kris Rice said the posted content appeared to be hate-motivated, was reviewed by a hate-crimes investigator and was forwarded to the RCMP hate-crime unit for further analysis. There are no suspects and anyone with information is asked to contact Oak Bay police, he said in a statement.

A Muslim employee at UVic with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named out of safety concerns, said the ­Multifaith Centre’s Muslim “spiritual care provider” was not given any reason for the cancellations on Friday. “They didn’t share information about the threat to her.” Following a meeting with campus security on Monday, the spiritual care provider was left to inform affected community members of the incident, they said. “Putting that work on a Muslim spiritual care provider who’s a volunteer just makes no sense.”

“There was sufficient risk to warrant cancelling a program. Why was there no official communication from UVic?”

It was left to the community to warn people on the way to Friday prayers that there was an unknown security threat, which spread fear and uncertainty through the Muslim community at UVic, they said.

Upwards of 100 people regularly attend Friday prayers at the centre, including university students, staff, faculty and nearby high school students, they said.

Shawn Ullah, B.C. representative for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said he is aware of the incident at UVic but had no further information on Monday.

Maclean said UVic will continue to work with event organizers at the centre to assess risk levels and develop safety planning for the rest of the summer.

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