The man who has presented himself as the point of contact for the family of Faisal Hussain is a professional activist who has reportedly committed himself to “framing a new narrative of Muslims in Canada” and creating a “national political movement.”
Shortly after the Ontario Special Investigations Unit revealed the identity of the Danforth shooter as 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, a news release was sent out to select media attributed to the “Hussain Family”.
The polished statement began with the family’s “deepest condolences to the families who are now suffering on account of our son’s horrific actions.” It then went on to explain that “our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life.”
It was provided by Mohammed Hashim, a full-time organizer for the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. Social media accounts belonging to Hashim show him heavily involved in supporting NDP candidates both federally and provincially in Ontario. He’s also described as a driving force behind the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
“His groundbreaking political advocacy, public relations and media work has been widely credited by insiders as framing a new narrative for Muslims in Canada,” says a bio of Hashim connected to an appearance he made at CanRoots 2016, a left-wing activist conference.
The bio continues: “His workshop ‘Progressive organizing in the Muslim communities’ will demonstrate how the GTA Muslim community mobilized in the previous federal election, and laid the groundwork to start building a national political movement.”
Another bio from the 2017 Muslim Awards of Excellence continues this description of Hashim as something of a spin doctor, noting that “his talking points and media advocacy are changing how Muslims are seen in the Canadian identity.”
While there have been cases of high profile individuals hiring PR representatives for crisis management – such as Michael Bryant and Jian Ghomeshi – it’s rare to see it happen with someone not already in the public eye.
The media-savvy Hashim has been featured in stories for a variety of his activities including in his capacity as president of the board for the Erin Mills Youth Centre and as a leader of the Muslim community group DawaNet.
But despite his familiarity with media, Hashim refused to answer questions from the Sun about the Hussain family and his connection with them, including how long he had known them and whether he reached out to them or vice versa.
“I’m sorry I have no comment for the Toronto Sun,” said Hashim via an online exchange. “I think [Sun columnist] Joe Warmington’s piecewas incredibly irresponsible and I have no trust in your organization to convey any truth.”
The Sun printed the Hussain family statement sent out by Hashim in full.
On Monday, Warmington reported that “Hussain apparently had been spoken to by authorities about his online activities. Sources say the Toronto Police, the OPP and the RCMP have all had an interest in the now-deceased alleged shooter.”
However, Hashim later responded to a separate request for comment from the Sun.
“I am just a friend of the family and have shared their statement as requested. I am not their spokesperson,” Hashim said via email.
“I’m sorry they are not doing any interviews for now.”
To date, no member of the Hussain family has spoken publicly or made any direct contact with media. Reports describe a family facing extensive challenges, as Hussain’s father is reportedly in and out of hospital with health issues, Hussain’s brother is in a coma and his sister died in a car crash several years ago.
It is believed Hussain lives with his mother in the Thorncliffe Park apartment that was scoured by police after the shooting.
Hashim would not clarify which family members contributed to the statement.