A mosque in Peterborough, Canada, was deliberately set on fire this weekend, police said Sunday. While the blaze was quickly contained and no one was injured, the Peterborough Examiner reports, the building, which suffered an estimate $80,000 of damage, is now unusable.
Run by the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association (KMRA), Masjid Al-Salaam is Peterborough’s only mosque. “The police are treating it as a hate crime, as far as we know, but we don’t have any more details,” KMRA President Kenzu Abdella said.
Firefighters responded to the fire at around 11 pm on Saturday night. About a half hour earlier, nearly 70 members of the 200-person congregation had gathered to celebrate the birth of a child. “Mothers with little kids were there,” Abdella told the Examiner.
While the Ontario Fire Marshall has determined that the fire was the result of an act of arson, the Associated Press reports that police are still looking for a suspect and trying to determine a motive. It’s not known whether the fire is connected to the attacks in Paris this weekend.
“It has come across our mind that it could be, but we don’t know,” Abdella said. This is the first time the mosque has ever even received a threat. “So it’s a shock and very upsetting for us this has happened and the (Muslim) community is quite concerned about what this could mean.”
He said police are taking the investigation seriously, however: “There’s an open line of communication there, updating us on a regular basis, so in that sense, we’re comforted by that.”
“It’s horrible, it’s very upsetting. It’s a big concern,” Abdella said. “You are safe one moment and then all of a sudden you have to worry about what’s going to happen,”