WARMINGTON: Hate-filled social media posts key to Rexdale mosque murder?

Motivated by hate? Targeted because religion or race? A potential serial killer?

There’s so much mystery surrounding the disturbing murder of a Muslim man in front of his mosque last weekend.

Toronto Police detectives are hoping the secrets of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis’s slaying are inside an apartment his accused killer had been living in with his father.

Waiting for a search warrant, officers were sitting in chairs Saturday in front of Guilherme “William” Von Neutegem’s off-limits residence. About six kilometre’s away, some empty chairs remained in front of the International Muslims Organization (IMO) mosque on Rexdale Blvd. as they always are when members gather to pack food for the needy.

One week earlier, Zafis was sitting in one of those chairs.

“He saw someone circle around, looked up for a second but thenlooked back down at his phone,” said IMO President Omar Farouk. “He didn’t see the guy went back around behind him.”

Toronto Police released this image of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, who was fatally stabbed in the neck outside of an Etobicoke mosque. Photo by Handout

With his throat cut by a knife, the 58-year-old husband, father and humanitarian died. His killer ran off and cops spent almost a week searching for him.

On Friday, police arrested a suspect — Von Neutegem, 34 — and charged with first-degree murder. The charges have not yet been tested in court and he is innocent until proven guilty.

None of that comforts the victim’s family and friends who Farouk said are “mortified, terrified and heartbroken.”

They want answers. They deserve them.

On Saturday, at the same mosque, volunteers walked right by where he was murdered, went inside and started packaging hundreds of food bags for the hungry.

“Mohamed would have been here,” said Farouk.

When it came to helping people Mohamed was always there.

“We really miss him,” said Sherri Ally. “He was a really good guy. He would have wanted us to keep going with this work.”

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But it was not lost on Munaf Solaiman what happened to Mohamed could have happened to any of them.

“There are so many questions but one look at the suspect’s social media platforms and you can see white supremacist postings,” said Solaiman. “We as a community are pleased Toronto Police are looking at this as a possible hate crime.”

On his phone, Solaiman showed photographer Jack Boland and myself social media posts from the accused that include one from Feb. 21 stating, “Heritage and culture are the greatest treasures we inherit from our ancestors. It’s in essence what we are.”

Solaiman also pointed out other posts he believes are “offering Neo-Nazi style perspectives.”

Homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga said they are in possession of said social media and that the possibility of this being a hate crime has not been ruled out and is being explored.

Police also are looking to see if there is any connection to the stabbing death of Rampreet (Peter) Singh, 39, five days earlier, on Sept. 7, under a nearby bridge.

Both men were remembered Saturday evening in a special vigil at the mosque attended by Supt. Ron Taverner of 23 Division.

“It’s so senseless,” he said of the two murders. “Homicide is working very hard on this to get the answers to the family and community who are understandably devastated.”

Standing at this mosque a week after the bloodshed, everything looked pretty well the same as before — except that Mohamad wasn’t there. What was not there a week ago were flowers, balloons and a card from Zafis’ widow that read: “To my wonderful husband on our anniversary.”

So much has been stolen from so many.

“It’s so sad seeing that card,” said mosque member Ayesha Hussain. “I pray she can find the strength to move forward. Everybody loved ‘uncle.’ All of our hearts go out to her.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many.

Mayor John Tory has visited the mosque to pay his respects. Premier Doug Ford has called mosque members, who are also his constituents, to express both sorrow and anger. Everybody should be angry.

While fondly remembering this fine man is important, what is equal in priority is to find out what ideology and potential encouragement was lurking in the shadows that led someone to do something so evil?

Whatever it was, no matter how embarrassing or inconvenient, no stone should be left unturned. Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, and the whole country, is owned nothing less.

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