The only mosque in the Peterborough, Ontario/Kawartha region was destroyed by fire on November 14, just one day after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Police have since confirmed that the fire was deliberately set, and the President of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, Kenzu Abdella, confirmed that "the police are treating it as a hate crime".
Masjid Al-Salaam was purchased in 2001 and is run by the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association. It is the only mosque in the region, and has 200 members. The Peterborough Examiner reported that just half an hour before the fire was set, nearly 70 members were celebrating the birth of a new baby. The mosque is frequently used by children and families throughout the day, in addition to hosting regular religious services.
Within the next few days the Jewish and Christian communities in Peterborough offered their churches and synagogues to the Muslim community, to provide a safe place to worship. Larry Gillman, President of the Beth Israel Synagogue said "there is no room for the hate of whomever committed this cowardly act", and Interim Minister at Mark Street United Church echoed the sentiment of many others, saying "when one neighbour is in trouble, the other neighbour helps".
A crowd-funding website was also launched by community members "of all or no faiths" in the hopes of raising the $80,000 required to complete repairs to the mosque. The campaign reached the goal of $80,000 within just a few days, and eventually the community raised $110,536. Abdella said that the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association was "so touched" and that they "feel a lot safer than we thought". They have said they will use the funds to make the repairs, and donate any excess to other charitable causes.
The attack on Muslim faith caught the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who released a statement from the G20 summit in Turkey. He said he was "deeply disturbed" by the attack, and that Canadian values include celebrating "our diversity and our religious tolerance". Trudeau continued:
Muslim-Canadians contribute enormously to the social and economic fabric of our nation, and Canadian authorities will not abide innocent and peaceful citizens being targeted by acts of vandalism and intolerance.
The response of the local and national communities to this senseless act of vandalism has been inspiring, and a strong reminder that people of all faiths, or no faith, can and should remain united.