Paramount CEO to re-open Syrian restaurant closed after family received death threats
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Thursday, October 10, 2019 11:53AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 11, 2019 8:18AM EDT
The head of a popular Middle Eastern food chain says he will step in to re-open and run a small Syrian restaurant in Toronto that shut down this week after its owners received multiple death threats.
Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih says Huam and Shahnaz Alsoufi’s restaurant, Soufi’s, will open its doors Friday morning with its entire regular staff recalled.
"I wanted them to feel they’re not alone in this – I will stand beside them, we will all stand beside them," he said.
Fakih, who recently won a libel suit against an Islamophobic Mississauga blogger, said the Alsoufi’s will continue to take in the profits from the restaurant, and he and some of his managers are stepping in just to give the family time to get back in the right place emotionally and ensure they can feel safe as they have “gone through a lot” in the past week.
The business, opened by the Alsoufis when they arrived to Canada in 2015, came under fire last week after the son of the restaurant’s owners was involved in a protest outside a fundraiser in Hamilton for Maxime Bernier’s far-right People's Party of Canada (PPC).
Videos of the incident, which have been circulating online, show protesters harassing an elderly woman outside Mohawk College, where the event was held on Sept. 29.
One protester reportedly called the woman “Nazi scum” and stuck a foot in front of her walker to prevent her from entering the building.
The restaurant’s owners later confirmed that their son, Alaa, was one of the protesters at the event but denied that he verbally or physically assaulted the woman.
The PPC is calling on Canadian immigration levels to be cut roughly in half and that future migrants be subject to an in-person values “test” or interview before they are deemed admissible to Canada.
“Torontonians please I am begging you, help this family, they need you,” Fakih said.
He alluded to his own legal action and said he was lucky to have funds to pay for a lawsuit, but you need more than money to ensure safety.
“Money and business doesn’t help when you’re dealing with hate.”
Husam Alsoufi said he appreciated Fakih’s help.
“We don’t wish to set a tragic example for future immigrants and refugee business owners as the business that gave in to hate. I remain fearful for my family’s wellbeing and safety and that will always be my first concern.”
He said that since the closure Tuesday, his family has received “hundreds” of messages of love and support.
He said all threats and messages of hatred have been turned over to police to assist in their investigation. He added that he “understands” the wider outrage caused by the Mohawk College incidentwhere his son was present but he had no idea that his family would receive death threats over it.
“I understand their position, I understand their fear, I understand why they are worried but I want to assure them we are just a family. We came here just to live our lives, run a business, and pay our taxes.”
Son reflecting on outcome of incident
Husam Alsoufi said his son has attended several rallies in support of “marginalized” people and said he thought his son had made a “mistake.”
“Look I love my son, and I will keep loving my son all of the time. Kids make mistakes, our job is to correct their mistakes not to kill them for that,” Alsoufi said. “He doesn’t need discouragement now. He learned this the hard way.”
The son of the elderly woman who was blocked from attending the rally, David Turkoski, has been speaking to Alsoufi and they plan to meet, possibly even at the restaurant.
“I want apologize to them to face to face – he promised me, David, that he would bring his family, his mother and father, to eat at this restaurant, and I pray that this will happen.”