The attack took place at a cemetery in Medina early Sunday morning and was reportedly sparked when religious police approached an international group of pilgrims that included the imam, Usama Al-Atar of Edmonton.
Witnesses said angry words were spoken, then things calmed down. That's when a single member of the religious police approached Al-Atar, offered to shake his hand and then called out to a group of men at a taxi stand.
They rushed in and began beating Al-Atar, kicking him and attempting to throttle him, the witnesses said.
Medina central police arrived, escorted the Canadian to a car and drove away, according to the witnesses.
Several witnesses said the attack was unprovoked, CBC journalist Muhammad Lila wrote on his Twitter page.That may indeed be the case. However, a quick Google search reveals that the imam is a Shia who has been an outspoken critic of the Saudis. At a rally in Edmonton in March of this year, for example, he said
The atrocities committed today against innocents in several countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among others, are crimes one cannot stand silent about.Given the imam's obvious hostility toward Wahhabis and the fact that he mentions his exact whereabouts on his website ("With the grace of Allah (swt), Al-Hajj Usama will be in Hajj this year. You can find him in Makkah on the 3rd floor of the Sacred Mosque at the Gate of Al-'Umrah between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. where he'll be reciting Du'as and lecturing"), I'm wondering if he wasn't targeted on purpose.