A Muslim man who went viral after a VIA Rail employee told him he could not pray inside an Ottawa train station last week is speaking out.
Ahmed, who asked to withhold his last name citing privacy concerns, sat down with The Brandon Gonez Show on Wednesday and told his side of the story.
In a video posted earlier this month on social media, over 100,000 people watched as a VIA rail security guard told Ahmed to take his worship outside because it was “bothering other customers.”
The video was widely shared by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
Ahmed said the drama unfolded on his way back from praying in an empty hallway when his co-worker told him the security guard said he could not pray indoors.
Seconds later, the employee appears and says it again, this time, it’s being recorded.
“It took me probably half an hour after the situation happened to watch the video and [ask myself] wait this happened to me?” he said.
READ MORE: ‘The ability to worship is a human right’: VIA Rail apologizes after Muslim man told he couldn’t pray inside station
When asked if anyone spoke up for him or came to his defence at any point, he said no.
“Not one person said a thing…they were looking at the ground” Ahmed said, referring to the 30 to 50 people that were in the vicinity.
He said that if the cities were reversed, and this took place in Toronto, it would have gone down differently and someone would have stepped in for him.
Ahmed said this is nothing short of racial and religious discrimination.
“If I was loud, if I was doing something out of the ordinary, that’s a different story,” he said. “I was minding my own business, in my own corner.”
There’s been an outpour of outrage by the public over what happened and numerous calls online to have the employee fired.
Ahmed doesn’t agree.
“I don’t think he should get fired, I think he needs education. He needs to learn and look into the religion [of Islam].”
VIA Rail has issued an apology after the video surfaced online.
“First and foremost, we want to apologize unreservedly to the individuals involved and to the entire Muslim community,” VIA Rail Canada said in a press release issued last week.
Ahmed said he felt disrespected by the apology and felt the company was promoting their business by using an image of their train on social media.
Since the incident, NCCM has partnered with VIA Rail to work on diversity and inclusion to “build a Canada free from Islamophobia.”
Ahmed said that if going through this traumatic experience meant it could lead Canadians to having more discussions on freedom of expression and religion then he is happy with that.
To watch the full interview, click here.