Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says reports linking the killing of a 58-year-old mosque volunteer to Neo-Nazi and Islamophobia-inspired motives are “extremely concerning.”
Earlier this month, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was approach by a man while he was sitting outside the International Muslim Organization mosque in Toronto and stabbed.
Zafis, a man known for his charity and goodwill, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Guilherme "William" Von Neutegem, 34, is now charged with first-degree murder in connection with the incident. The charge has not been proven in court.
“My heart goes out to the loved ones of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis. The reports that his murder was motivated by Neo-Nazism and Islamophobia are extremely concerning,” Trudeau posted on Twitter Tuesday.
While police have not publically confirmed the crime was hate-motivated, Von Neutegem has allegedly shared content from a satanic neo-Nazi group on social media, according to an organization that tracks online extremism.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a non-profit organization that researches, monitors and combats hate groups, has reported that the suspect’s social media is allegedly connected to a variety of known racist and Nazi-inspired occult movements.
CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Toronto Police Service but has not yet received a response confirming the reports.
Police have previously said there does not appear to be any relationship between the accused and the victim. But on Saturday, police said they were aware of allegations that the murder suspect had ties to a neo-Nazi social media group.
“As far as the investigation goes, looking into the social media of the accused is an important part of trying to determine motive,” Supt. Ron Taverner said on Saturday. “That process is ongoing and hopefully we can have answers to that question in the coming days.”
Several politicians and advocacy groups across the region spoke against the act of violence and urged police to thoroughly investigate the matter.
“The news that his murder was motivated by Neo-Nazism and Islamophobia are very alarming,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown stated Tuesday. “Brampton stands with the Muslim community against hate. There must be zero tolerance for hate crimes.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also stated her support for the Muslim community and condemned the incident.
“Everyone should feel and be safe in their communities and places of worship,” she wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “The attack on Mohamed-Aslim Zafis is part of a trend of white supremacist hate and terror we must confront. News that the perpetrator of this Islamophobic attack has Neo-Nazi ties make this even clearer.”
Advocacy groups like the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) are calling on the federal government to take action in dismantling Islamophobic, Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
“Someone connected with neo-Nazi movements slaughtered a man standing in front of the mosque doors … we need action to end white supremacist groups today,” NCCM’s CEO Mustafa Farooq said.