A violent attack took place in a local mosque early Saturday in one of Canada's populated cities, Mississauga.
Speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency, Imam Ibrahim Hindy said the worshipers heard the noise of a man emptying pepper spray all over them as they were praying the dawn prayer.
"They turned around and saw this man had an ax in his hand and he was spraying them with pepper spray. It seemed like he wanted to spray everyone and create like a cloud before he attacked them," Hindy said, adding that those at the mosque "quickly overpowered" the attacker.
One of those who had stopped the suspect was a 19-year-old young man, he noted, saying "he (the young man) was able to push him down, and then they were able to pin the attacker down and hold him down until the police were able to arrive."
Hindy further noted that no one was seriously injured but a "number of them are still feeling the effects of the pepper spray."
Local police in the Peel region of Ontario, Canada, issued a statement saying: "Officers from 12 Division have arrested a Mississauga man responsible for a possible hate-motivated crime that occurred at a Mosque in the City of Mississauga."
Just around 7 a.m. local time (1100GMT), "a man walked into the Mosque and discharged bear spray towards the members of the Mosque while brandishing a hatchet. The members of the Mosque quickly subdued the man until police arrived," according to the police report.
A 24-year-old man, also from Mississauga, was arrested as the police said the charges are pending. Local police said it is considering all possible motivations for the act, including hate crime.
The investigation on the incident is ongoing, added the police.
Meanwhile, responding to a question on rising Islamophobia in Canada, Imam Hindy said: "There's no question that's on our minds."
Citing the incident in New Zealand's Christchurch where mosques were attacked and people killed, Hindy also recalled the "Quebec mosque shooting where the people in the masjid were killed by assailants who came with a with a with a gun to the mosque."
"So that's for sure what all of us are thinking and worried about, we don't know 100% what the motivations are here. ... we were attacked at the time of prayer. And that's something, that's very worrying," he added.
"Islamophobia is real. We know that, you know, unfortunately, it's in this country (Canada) as well," Hindy said.
"There's a lot of racism, unfortunately, that has taken place. And so those are things that are top of mind. We don't want to speculate on 100% of what happened until we have all of the facts."
He also urged Canadian officials to provide more "added protection of places of worship," as there have been multiple incidents now that have happened.
"We need added protection at places of worship. We need more law enforcement ensuring that there's protection for people who are going to worship and we want politicians to be enlightened to the dangers of hatred and Islamophobia, and mental health issues that exist in this country. It's for them to try to tackle that comprehensively."
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also issued a statement regarding the incident saying: "Our community will never be broken and we refuse to be intimidated."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter described the incident as "incredibly disturbing" as he "strongly condemned" it.
"I strongly condemn this violence – which has no place in Canada – and I’m keeping the community in my thoughts today. I also want to applaud the courage of those who were there this morning," he added.