Al-Soufi family to speak out as community rallies to reopen restaurant despite online threats

The Syrian owners of a Toronto restaurant they closed after receiving death threats will hold a news conference Thursday morning, a day after the family announced the business will reopen.

Husam and Shahnaz Al-Soufi are expected to speak at Soufi’s downtown eatery on Queen Street West. They’ll be joined by Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Foods, who is helping the family resume business despite what he calls “intimidation and hate.”

You can watch their remarks live starting at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The Al-Soufi family said it started receiving the threats — which Toronto police are set to investigate — after their eldest son protested outside a September event in Hamilton featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

The event became the source of controversy when people protesting Bernier’s presence were seen physically blocking and verbally abusing Dorothy Marston, a senior trying to enter the venue.

The Al-Soufis confirmed in a statement that their son, Alaa, was at the protest to stand up against oppression, but also regrets what happened to Marston.

“That said, he did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman, and has nonetheless offered to apologize personally for not doing more,” the statement said. 

Despite the family’s appeals, it received numerous violent and racist online threats. Those threats, they said, potentially put them, their staff and patrons in danger, and therefore they had no choice but to close. 

Fakih, whose Paramount Foods shops have popped up across the GTA, has had his own run-ins with online hatred.

Last May, he won a $2.5-million lawsuit against a former Mississauga, Ont., mayoral candidate who made, as the judge described, “hateful Islamophobic” comments against him in an online video. 

A representative from the local business improvement area will also be on hand for Thursday’s news conference.

Read more at CBC.ca