On Saturday night at approximately 11 p.m., barely 24 hours after the Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead, and 99 in critical condition, a fire broke out at the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque in Peterborough, the city’s only mosque.
No one was inside the mosque at the time, and there are no reported injuries.
Kenzu Abdella, president of Peterborough’s Muslim association, the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, called the case of arson “clearly a hate crime.” According to CBC, Abdella said that members of the congregation were in the mosque only an hour before the fire broke out, celebrating the birth of a newborn child.
“The scare for people is that what if this had happened while we were in there?” Abdella said Sunday. “So there’s a bit of uneasiness in the community.”
The blaze reportedly caused some $80,000 in damages, and has shook up the city’s Muslim community. “To us, this is out of nowhere,” Abdella said. “Even when we were hearing all the things that are happening around the world, it never occurred to us that this could happen in our community.”
Peterborough police have confirmed that the fire was deliberate, and are investigating the case of arson as a hate crime. “Offences such as this, committed in relation to a place of Worship are taken very seriously and the Police Service will make every attempt to determine who is responsible,” police said in a statement.
Maryam Monsef, the first Afghan-born MP and Liberal MP for Peterborough-Kawartha, said, “I know the residents of Peterborough-Kawartha will be as upset about this as I am. Together, we will … demonstrate that these sorts of incidents are in no way reflective of our community as a whole.”
My thoughts are with the families who visit Masjid Al-Salaam in Ptbo each week. Please see my full statement: pic.twitter.com/0jI1UpKd45
— Maryam Monsef (@MaryamMonsef) November 15, 2015
Since the blaze, a FundRazr campaign has been set up to help pay for the damages, and has already raised $65,850 at time of publication. “As a Jewish Canadian, I stand in solidarity with you. If there is anything I can do, just let me know,” wrote one contributor.
“We encourage members of the community, of all or no faiths, to help the Muslim community restore their place of worship,” the FundRazr site states.
To donate, click here.