Ramadan banner set on fire in JDUC arson

Campus Security investigating potential suspect

When campus security responded to an active fire alarm at the JDUC last week, they found that property had been burnt at three separate locations--one being the Ramadan banner hung outside the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association’s (QUMSA) club space.

On Oct. 23 at 1:09 a.m., campus security received notice of a fire alarm at the JDUC.

Dave Patterson, campus security director, said the papers that were ignited had burnt themselves out but there were still lingering smells of smoke.

“There were several pieces of paper that were burnt at three separate locations,” Patterson said. “The cause was burnt paper on the bulletin board on the third floor and a building floor plan. Also on the second floor, several pieces of paper were burnt.” Patterson said two students who had been working in the building saw a suspicious-looking male leaving the building.

“He appeared to be of student age, white with no facial hair or glasses, wearing a light brown hooded sweatshirt and a red cap. He was slightly above average build,” Patterson said.

The suspect wasn’t seen lighting anything on fire but Patterson said the two students who were present felt that the suspect’s presence at that time in the morning appeared to be suspicious.

“It would appear that the items were chosen randomly and chosen by location, i.e. at the north end by the exit stairwells,” he said, adding that the incident has been reported to the police.

“We keep an extra eye on the [JDUC], where we do frequent checks on an hourly basis. We’ll be paying particular attention to bulletin boards,” he said. “If we notice that there’s a lot of paper overflowing on bulletin boards, we bring it to the building administrators.”

The QUMSA club space is located on the second floor of the JDUC.

QUMSA’s Publicity Officer, Mamoun Malkawi, said safety is the club’s main concern.

“It was intentional but we don’t think it’s a severe hate crime,” he said. “Our main point of concern is that we didn’t want anyone hurt.”

The suspected arson came the night before Eid al Fitr, a celebration marking the end of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

Malkawi said the club is alarmed their club space could be targeted in such a way.

“We hope it was some drunken act of stupidity. We hope it wasn’t a hate crime that caused a person to start the fire,” Malkawi said. “The fact that it was on the eve of our celebration, we suspect that this was actually planned … that it was Islamophobia.”

Malkawi said there isn’t much the club can do and they have since notified campus security and the police.

“We’re trying to address Islamophobia on Wednesday,” he said, referring to deposition on Islamophobia QUMSA is holding Nov. 1 in conjunction with the Society of Graduate and Professional Students and the Canadian Federation of Students.

“We’re asking anyone who’s faced Islamophobia to come out and tell us about your experience,” Malkawi said. “We really hope that people who have any misinformed ideas about Muslims go out and seek information.”

Allison Williams, AMS social issues commissioner, said the commission will release a statement condemning what she sees as an act of Islamophobia. “I’m glad the police are involved because it’s a very serious issue,” she said. “It’s not only illegal but very hurtful to anyone in the Queen’s environment.”

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