Etobicoke mosque holds vigil 1 week after killing of volunteer caretaker

Members of an Etobicoke mosque held a vigil on Saturday one week after the stabbing death of a man who served as its volunteer caretaker.

The vigil, which drew dozens of people, was held outside the International Muslims Organization (IMO) mosque, 65 Rexdale Blvd., to honour Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, fatally stabbed last Saturday.

Speakers at the vigil thanked Toronto police for their work in making an arrest and laying a charge and called on homicide detectives to investigate the killing as a hate crime.

Zafis was attacked as he sat in a chair outside the front doors of the mosque at about 8:40 p.m. He died at the scene. Zafis was controlling access into the building to ensure worshippers complied with public health regulations.

On Friday, police announced that they have arrested and changed Guilherme “William” Von Neutegem, 34, with first-degree murder in the death.

Omar Farouk, president of IMO, said the killing has sent “a shock wave of fear and deep concern” throughout the community. 

“Someone came to our beloved place of worship, the place where we come to find peace and solace, with the intent to kill,” Farouk said.

But Farouk said the killing will not intimidate the community.

“No one is going to stop from being here, the place we love,” Farouk said.

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the violence is terrifying but the community will not be terrified.

“I stood right there in the dark, with the blue and red flashing sirens. We had to look upon a sight that no one should ever have to look upon. It was a brazen act of violence,” Farooq said.

Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, was fatally stabbed as he sat in a chair outside the front doors of the mosque at about 8:40 p.m. last Saturday. He died at the scene. Zafis was controlling access into the building to ensure worshippers complied with public health regulations. (Toronto Police Service)

Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, who spoke at the vigil, said police will lay hate-crime charges if the evidence is there.

“We are continuing to look at that in our process of investigation and we’ll leave no stone unturned to investigate this and to follow up on it. At the appropriate time, we’ll make a decision as to where this will go,” Taverner said.

‘We will go wherever the evidence takes us’

On Friday afternoon, Insp. Hank Idsinga, commander of the Toronto police homicide squad, said at a news conference that the investigation is in its early stages.

“It’s too early to say if it is hate-motivated,” Idsinga said. “However, investigators are open minded to the motivation behind the attack. The investigation continues and there are several different avenues to explore. We will go wherever the evidence takes us.”

According to speakers at the vigil, there are troubling social media posts by a man with the same name as the accused.

Farooq said: “Again, this needs more investigation, but when these things come to light, we have to see a response and that must come.”

The mosque’s doors have been closed since the death, but Farouk said it will let worshippers know in a few days when it will reopen for prayers.

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