Shock and grief as mourners gather to remember 16-year-old homicide victim in Halifax

Shock and grief as mourners gather to remember 16-year-old homicide victim in Halifax

Young mourners at a Halifax-area mosque were invited Wednesday to gather around the casket of Ahmed Al Marrach, a 16-year-old killed this week in what police have ruled a homicide.

Those who packed the Kearney Lake Masjid listened as Imam Hamzah Mangera spoke of a high school student who had started to see positive change after struggling to settle into Canada as a Syrian refugee eight years ago.

The imam asked youth taking part in the wake and funeral prayer to reflect on Al Marrach's death, the fragility of life and the kind of impact they hoped to make in the world.

"I just thought that the youth should think about that," Mangera said in an interview. "Just a moment of reflection. We haven't had these [types] of funerals much."

He said many youth are struggling to make sense of their peer's killing, and he urged them to remain calm and not resort to vigilante justice.

Al Marrach was found injured in a parking lot next to the Halifax Shopping Centre just before 5 p.m. Monday. Police said the teen was taken to hospital, where he died.

Dave Laughlin/CBC
Dave Laughlin/CBC

Halifax Regional Police said Tuesday they have released the two youths who were arrested on a Halifax Transit bus shortly after Al Marrach was found injured.

No charges have been laid in the case and police have said the investigation is ongoing.

Police have not said how Al Marrach died. However, Rana Zaman, a local activist who met with Al Marrach's family following his death, said the teenager was stabbed.

The act of violence, she said, is evidence "that we, as a society, are failing our children."

Dave Laughlin/CBC
Dave Laughlin/CBC

"The feedback I'm getting from other moms, messages are being sent, other children are saying, 'We feel unsafe, we're going to carry knives, too. We need to protect ourselves,'" she said.

Zaman also said the family was disheartened when police released the two youths without laying charges.

"They [the family] did not come here to cause problems. They came here seeking refuge."

Event for youth to grieve 

Ummah Masjid and Community Centre was expected to host an event Wednesday evening to help youth process the death.

"As youngsters, they go according to what social media is saying," Mangera said. "We're just requesting them to not pass on any wrong information because wrong information can lead to wrong actions as well."

Hanaa Rashid, director of social services at the centre, said the death of the boy who attended the mosque for prayer has been overwhelming.

Taryn Grant/CBC
Taryn Grant/CBC

She described him as a typical teenager who liked to hang out with friends and ride his scooter.

"I'm grieving. There's a lot of grief. A lot of shock. It's something we never expected, and of course it's overwhelming" Rashid said.