Mus­lim com­mu­nity want an­swers in po­lice death of So­mali man

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - TERRY PEDWELL

De­mands for an­swers and bet­ter po­lice train­ing were mixed with tears and sor­row as fam­ily, friends and mem­bers of Ottawa’s tight-knit­ted Mus­lim com­mu­nity memo­ri­al­ized a So­mali-Cana­dian man who died af­ter a con­fronta­tion with po­lice.

There were also cries for jus­tice Fri­day from among the over­flow of mourn­ers at the fu­neral ser­vice for 37-year-old Ab­di­rah­man Abdi, who was taken down by po­lice of­fi­cers on a side­walk fol­low­ing a dis­tur­bance call last Sun­day.

“We all have many questions, but we are try­ing to be as pa­tient as pos­si­ble as the investigation con­tin­ues,” Abdi’s fam­ily said in a state­ment read by Imam Sikan­der Hashmi. “We need an­swers.” Com­mu­nity lead­ers in­clud­ing Ottawa Mayor Jim Wat­son and On­tario cabi­net min­is­ter Bob Chiarelli urged pa­tience as the prov­ince’s Special In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit ex­am­ines the cir­cum­stances of Abdi’s death.

“This is a time for griev­ing and not fin­ger-point­ing,” Wat­son said out­side the ser­vice. “I think what we have to do is al­low the SIU to take the time that’s nec­es­sary to do a full and thor­ough re­port ... and let the ju­di­cial sys­tem take its course.”

An Ottawa mosque, with a ca­pac­ity of 2,000 peo­ple, was over­flow­ing for the ser­vice with dozens of mourn­ers forced to kneel and pray on the side­walk in front of the build­ing. Naeem Ma­lik, pres­i­dent of the Ottawa Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion, said the com­mu­nity turned out in sol­i­dar­ity.

“The fam­ily needs our sup­port, be­cause they are not only So­mali, they are Mus­lim,” he said. “So we are here with them.” Abdi’s death struck the com­mu­nity hard, said Farhat Rehman of the Cana­dian Coun­cil of Mus­lim Women, who wor­ried about how the cir­cum­stances would af­fect po­lice-com­mu­nity re­la­tions.

“I think it’s touched a nerve,” she said. “Peo­ple are very hy­per­sen­si­tive to (po­lice in­ter­ac­tion) is­sues right now.”

On­tario’s SIU said there was a “con­fronta­tion” out­side an apart­ment build­ing down the street from where Abdi lived with his fam­ily and he suf­fered med­i­cal dis­tress.

Sev­eral dozen peo­ple gath­ered for a vigil in Mon­treal on Thurs­day night, say­ing Abdi’s death high­lights a wide­spread cul­ture of po­lice bru­tal­ity that dis­pro­por­tion­ately vic­tim­izes peo­ple who are black or men­tally ill.

The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of So­mali Lawyers, a national or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing So­mali-Cana­dian lawyers from across the coun­try, has said the in­ci­dent is part of a larger pat­tern.


A mourner re­acts at an Ottawa Mosque on Fri­day, af­ter the fu­neral of Ab­di­rah­man Abdi, who died afer an al­ter­ca­tion with Ottawa po­lice Sun­day.

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