When People Complained About A Muslim Group Praying At A Zoo, The Zoo Had The Best Response

"Safari Park is a welcome place for all, regardless of nationality, religion, culture, language and sexual orientation."

A zoo in Quebec has come out in strong defense of a recent group of Muslim visitors who prayed on zoo grounds.

On July 2, roughly 1,000 members of the Muslim Association of Canada payed a visit to the Parc Safari Zoo in Quebec to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and in the midst of their visit they stopped for one of Islam's five daily prayers, though they made sure they stayed clear of passersby.

Video of the group praying was posted to Facebook and Youtube, though both clips have since been removed. According to BuzzFeed, the poster of the Facebook video wasn't a fan of what he or she saw. "I find it inappropriate that at Parc Safari on a Sunday afternoon we hear prayers on a speaker," the poster reportedly wrote, in French. "Can you just do this in your living room and not impose it on me, please!"

According to the outlet, the person who posted the clip on YouTube wrote of the prayer, "It's not only inappropriate but a serious lack of respect towards Quebec and Quebeckers. Go live your faith in your mosques, outside, no one is interested."

It's unclear if the Facebook poster and YouTube poster are the same person, but many people online unfortunately agreed with that sentiment. Global News notes some have even called for people to boycott the zoo, which has received "several heinous and racist comments" since the incident.

Radio Canada International reports Islamophobia is a growing problem in Canada, as it is around many other parts of the world.

However, Parc Safari is standing by its decision to allow the group to pray on zoo grounds, and is showing zero signs of backing down. In fact, in a July 4 Facebook post addressing the incident, Parc Safari made its position abundantly clear.

"Safari Park is a welcome place for all, regardless of nationality, religion, culture, language and sexual orientation. Safari Park does not discriminate against any group and does not tolerate hate attacks on its site," the post began, later confirming the Muslim Association of Canada had reserved space to pray during their visit and complied with all of Parc Safari's rules to ensure the animals and other guests weren't disturbed. The post also mentioned the group brought their own sound system, and did not use the park's sound system to broadcast the call to prayer.

"Following the release of a 46-second video on YouTube, it appears that the presence of this group at Safari Park has offended people, whether present or not, during the day," the post continued. "Safari Park is sorry that freedom of religion may offend people. In any case, this was not the objective."

The post also confirmed the "hate and racist comments" that have been aimed at the park, but vowed to remain "a place where everyone is welcome." 

"A Zoological institution is by definition a multicultural place where small and large can discover the wonderful diversity of nature and animals and thus develop affection and respect for this diversity, these differences, and their intrinsic beauty," the post concluded. "We repeat: Safari Park is a place for everyone, regardless of nationality, religion, colour, culture or sexual orientation. Safari Park will not accept any call to hate or inappropriate vocabulary on our social networks, by phone or on its site. All hate messages or inappropriate messages will be deleted from our page."

The post has been shared nearly 6,000 times and has received upwards of 1,400 comments. As one user wrote, "As a regular visitor to Parc Safari, I want to say THANK YOU Parc Safari for your response.... I WILL be visiting MORE and encouraging others to do so as well."

Parc Safari owner Jean-Pierre Ranger, who has been operating the zoo for 45 years, tells A Plus the zoo has hosted many other religious groups in the past with no backlash. "Everyone is expected to respect the rules and civility we expect of one another in society. We will not accept nor tolerate any interference with the amusement of other guests," he explains, adding that he wasn't expecting people to be outraged by the Muslim group. "In 45 years, there were never any controversies at Parc Safari."

Ranger adds he's received some 2,000 letters regarding the controversy, and tells us the missives are overwhelmingly supportive. That's why he's not bothered by those saying they're now going to boycott the zoo. 

What's more? Ranger tells A Plus he's heard from the Muslim community, and explains, "The person responsible for the group is thankful for the clear statement Parc Safari published."

Cover image via Shutterstock /  Srg Gushchin.

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