Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, assured Canadian Muslim that the Government would work hard to find those responsible for setting fire to a central Ontario mosque on November 14. Two days later on November 16 a Muslim woman was assaulted by two men in Toronto.
The brother of the victim says she’s been traumatized and “scarred for life” by what happened.
The man, who didn’t want to be identified, said his sister was punched in the stomach and face, called “a terrorist” and was told to go back home.
According to the police, the incident took place at 3pm in the Flemingdon Park area, and investigators are treating the attack as a hate crime.
The woman reported she was jumped from behind and beaten by two males while on her way to pick up her children from school.
The two men pulled her hijab aggressively and took her cellphone and some money before fleeing, police said.
Supt Mark Barkley called the attack “horrendous.”
“This is a peaceful, innocent family that has done nothing and they were attacked. We’re going to get to the bottom of this and make sure these people are apprehended.”
The Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, located in a quiet residential area of Peterborough, is the only mosque for about 1,000 Muslims who live in the area; about 50 families regularly attend services, as many as 300 on Fridays.
Police say that just after 11 pm a window at the mosque was broken and an accelerant was placed in the building. Fire crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly. No one was inside at the time, but it happened hours after a gathering at the mosque to celebrate the birth of a baby.
In a statement to The Muslim News a spokesman for Peterborough Police confirmed they are treating the arson as a hate crime adding, “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.”
Trudeau who was sworn in as Prime Minister on November 4, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the incident, adding that Canada “will not abide innocent and peaceful citizens being targeted by acts of vandalism and intolerance.”
He added: “The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked peace-loving people in all countries around the world. We must remain focused on those responsible for the atrocities committed in France. It is equally important for Canadians to understand that Muslims around the world are also being persecuted regularly by these violent extremists. We are in this together.
“To the families who attend the mosque for prayer every week, the Government of Canada and our law enforcement agencies will protect your rights and make every effort to apprehend any perpetrator. I hope your mosque will be open for prayer again very soon.”
Mosque officials said the building suffered heavy smoke damage inside, with little damage evident outside and damage is estimated at $80,000.
The President of the mosque, Kenzu Abdellah, said the building was used to celebrate the birth of a child just 30 minutes before someone set the fire.“The Muslim community has a very good relationship with the Peterborough community,” he said.
Abdella said people had been “really amazing” in the wake of the mosque fire but added that Muslims in Canada worry they could be painted with a violent, extremist brush.
“Some people may misunderstand what’s happening in other parts of the world and try to link that with Muslims here,” Abdella said. “That is really unfortunate because any time violence happens in any part of the world, Canadian Muslims like any other Canadians are offended by it and they condemn it.”
Members of the community have already started a campaign to raise money to repair the damage to the mosque. Just three hours after launching, it had raised close to $8,000 towards the $80,000 goal.