Peterborough mosque damaged by deliberate fire: Police
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Sunday, November 15, 2015 12:06PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 15, 2015 11:39PM EST
Police are investigating after they say a fire was deliberately set at a Peterborough mosque.
The fire started around 11 p.m. Saturday night at the Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque on Parkhill Road, police said.
Firefighters responded and contained the fire to the main floor, but there was heavy smoke damage to the building, Platoof Chief Rolf Erdmann told CP24.
“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,” Peterborough police said in a news release Sunday.
Erdmann said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but it appears to be suspicious.
Police said it is too early to say whether the incident was motivated by hate. But Kawartha Muslim Religious Association president Kenzu Abdella said late Sunday that authorities are treating it that way.
"We're not making conjecture about who did it but it looks like it's being treated as a hate crime so we're quite upset and saddened by the situation."
Abdella says he hasn't seen anything like this before.
"The Muslim community has been here for quite a few years and we've not had an incident like this. We're quite concerned about what happened."
The Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office is investigating, along with firefighters and the Peterborough Police Forensics Unit.
Damage from the fire has been estimated at $80,000.
Maryam Monsef, the newly elected MP for Peterborough-Kawartha and Canada's minister for democratic institutions, wrote in a news release that she is "deeply concerned" about the fire.
"My thoughts are with the families who visit the mosque for prayer every week, and I hope that the facility will be open for prayer again soon."
She stressed that Peterborough "is a warm and generous community."
"We have a proud history as a welcoming and friendly place to live, just as it was when my family arrived here 20 years ago," Monsef said, referring to her arrival from Afghanistan when she was 11-years-old.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact police or call CrimeStoppers anonymously.
A crowdfunding effort for the mosque community to repair the damage had raised close to $14,000 by 6:40 p.m. Sunday.