Hearts are breaking across the world today for the owners of a Syrian immigrant-run Toronto restaurant who’ve been forced to close their business in light of “overwhelming” death threats.
The situation is grim, but it’s not without hope thanks to generous community members who want to help Soufi’s reopen its doors.
Opened by a family of newcomers in 2017, the thriving West Queen West shop known for its flatbreads and sweet knaffeh pies announced on Tuesday that it was reluctantly shutting down “in effort to maintain [their] family and staff’s safety.”
Absolutely 💔💔💔. Why do so many people love to hate so randomly? Bless these owners. #Soufis https://t.co/KE2a3iNBsh
— Janet Lore (@ScanetJanet) October 9, 2019
The barrage of hate is believed to have been sparked by video footage of the restaurant owner’s son attending a protest outside a rally for People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier in Hamilton last weekend.
In the now-viral video, masked protesters can be seen blocking the path of an 81-year-old woman while screaming “off our streets, Nazi scum!”
One of the protesters in that group was identified as a member of the Soufi family by multiple alt-right and anti-immigrant Facebook communities. This is when the harassment toward Soufi’s began in earnest.
The restaurant’s owners decided to publicly apologize for their son’s involvement in the rally, noting in a statement on Facebook that “our family and business do not condone acts of hate, violence or harassment in any shape or form, and advocate for peace, equality, and free speech for all human beings.”
“We respect people’s opinions and judgments, however, we kindly ask that people refrain from sending abusive and/or threatening messages to our staff and family members,” read the message on the restaurant’s since-deleted Facebook page.
#Toronto restaurant apologizes after owner’s son attends Antifa protest in #Hamilton https://t.co/D0IW3WPFmj pic.twitter.com/ttaSlXuWNz
— blogTO (@blogTO) October 4, 2019
The abuse only got worse from there, however.
On Tuesday, just a few days after issuing the Facebook apology, Soufi’s announced that it would be closing permanently after receiving a barrage of violent death threats.
People across the entire country, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are speaking out against the trolls who’ve been harassing Soufi’s as news of its closure spreads.
Paramount Fine Foods founder and CEO Mohamed Fakih is taking things a step further by offering to pay for security at the restaurant to protect the Soufi family, their staff and customers.
Hate messages & death threats sent to refugee immigrants is absolutely unacceptable. The extra legal funds needed to defend their rights is unnecessary, burdens them with another challenge. We need to keep Canada welcoming. #hatemustnotwin #exln43 https://t.co/CDTRPDNOCu
— Mohamad Fakih (@mohamadfakih8) October 8, 2019
Fakih also told CTV on Wednesday that he would consider sending his own employees into the store to operate it under the Soufi’s name.
“We can’t let hate win, we will lose ourselves,” said Fakih, who owns the fastest-growing Middle Eastern food chain in Canada with more than 60 Paramount Fine Foods locations as of 2019.
The Soufi family said on Tuesday that the decision to close their restaurant was “made with a heavy heart.”
“Since we opened up Soufi’s in 2017, we have been met with nothing but curiosity, respect, acceptance, and love from the people of Toronto, and for that we are eternally grateful,” reads their most recent statement.
“We will cherish the countless memories of us sharing stories, food, music and laughter.”