Islamic Centre vandalized in apparent hate crime

Alcohol bottles thrown at building broke two windows, door

The broken door at the Islamic Centre of Kingston.
The broken door at the Islamic Centre of Kingston.
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Last Saturday, a young girl brought her piggy bank to the Islamic Centre of Kingston’s international bazaar to help pay for the two windows and glass door that had been broken several hours before.

Centre members discovered the vandalism Saturday morning when exiting to the side parking lot following early-morning prayer.

The damage was caused sometime between 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 and 6 a.m. Saturday when a suspect or suspects threw alcohol bottles at the building, according to police reports. Religious symbols — the Star of David and the Cross, among other unidentified pictures — were discovered drawn in the snow where the broken bottles lay, as well as footprints and tire tracks.

The Kingston Police Force (KPF) arrived at the scene and collected potential evidence for analysis soon after the damage was discovered. Steve Koopman, media relations officer for the KPF, said investigators are still in the process of reviewing footage from the Centre’s security cameras.

“We would consider the motive to be hate-based,” Koopman said.

Mohammad Saleem, president of the Centre, said he believes the crime was an attempt to sabotage the Centre’s annual international bazaar, which took place Saturday. Despite the incident, Centre members decided to proceed with the event.

Saleem, who moved to Kingston in 1987, said he thought the sabotage attempts backfired, as participation in the bazaar was higher than he’d ever witnessed.

From his time in Kingston, Saleem said, such hate-based events are few and far between, and are in no way reflective of the Kingston population as a whole.

He said, however, that such events have occurred more so in recent years, with the most recent incident occurring on Oct. 6, 2013, when six Muslim Queen’s students were physically and verbally assaulted by four men.

Saleem said he was very grateful for the Kingston community’s reaction.

“We have been getting a lot of messages of support. Interfaith groups have been in the forefront,” he said.

He added that support also came in the form of individuals, including the young girl with her piggy bank, offering to contribute to repairs, as well as a retired police officer who offered to patrol during the day and evenings to protect the building.

“It makes me feel good to know that people feel that an attack on one is an attack on all,” he said.

Mona Rahman, a Muslim post-doctoral fellow in the department of biochemistry, said she found out about the vandalism when she arrived at the bazaar.

Rahman, born and raised in Kingston, said she considers the vandalism a hate crime, but also an isolated incident.

“I know my community, and I’ve seen how people rally around when things like this happen,” she said. “To me, those are individuals … [who are] not representative of Kingston.

“Just as we as Muslims don’t like to be generalized, we shouldn’t generalize the community at large.”

No arrests have been made at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Cam Gough at 613-549-4660, ext. 6273, or via email at cgough@kpf.ca.

Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or on the website at www.tipsubmit.com.

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