UPDATE: The Waterloo Regional Police announced on Saturday that a 35-year-old Cambridge male has been arrested in connection to the investigation and charged with breaking and entering, property damage over $5,000, possession of stolen property, and offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The Baitul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge, Ont., was vandalized on Wednesday in what the Waterloo Regional Police call a “hateful act.”
“We are deeply troubled to learn of this attack on the Baitul Kareem Mosque,” said Lal Khan Malik, the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, in a press release on Thursday. “Our mosques have always served as symbols of peace in the community, and it is hurtful for us to see our mosque attacked and vandalized in this fashion.”
In an interview with Broadview, Asif Khan, the national public relations director for Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said that the damage likely occurred between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET, or at least before 5 p.m. ET. According to Khan, in the hour before 5 p.m. ET, Imam Fatir Ahmad from Baitul Kareem arrived at the mosque and “could hear a ruckus inside.”
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He said that Ahmad did not enter the mosque, instead calling the community’s local president, who reported the break-in and property damage to the police at 5:30 p.m. ET. When officers arrived on the scene, the cause of the “ruckus” was not present.
Inside the mosque, photos from the press release show a shattered stovetop, busted and stolen electronics, and documents strewn across the floor. “The door’s smashed in,” said Khan. “It needs to be completely replaced.”
The police said that they believe there was forced entry at the mosque. The overall damages exceed tens of thousands of dollars, according to the press release. Khan said the security surveillance system was taken apart, and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada’s tweeted that “the perpetrators targeted Islamic literature and destroyed books.” Khan pointed to that detail as evidence that the mosque was targeted.
Although officials including MPP Tom Rakocevic have called the attack “Islamophobic,” Khan said that it is “too soon to say” if it is part of the larger pattern of anti-Muslim hate across Canada.
Although Ahmadi Muslims have been subject to international religious persecution, including within some Muslim-majority nations, Khan said that he is “quite sure it’s not another Muslim that would have done this against us.”
Called an “apparent act of hate” by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, the police said that the hate crime unit and the equity, diversity and inclusion unit, among others, are involved in the investigation. “We are deeply disturbed by this senseless criminal act and the significant destruction towards the Baitul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge,” said police chief Bryan Larkin. “Places of worship are sacred, and this criminal act cannot and will not be tolerated in Waterloo Region … My thoughts are with our Muslim community as they cope with this destructive and hateful crime.”
This is horrific & shameful. #Cbridge, this hatred has no place in our community. We all need to take a lesson from the @BaitulKareem Mosque & lead with love for all, hatred for none. I am both saddened & angered. Let’s stand strong w/ our friends at @BaitulKareem & help rebuild. https://t.co/fZTiVDcJZh
— Kathryn McGarry (@Kathryn_McGarry) July 15, 2021
Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry tweeted that the attack was “horrific” and praised the Baitul Kareem Mosque’s core mission to hold “love for all, hatred for none.” Khan emphasized that this motto embodies his community’s response to the perpetrators.
“We’re not out to get you and to punish you,” he said. “We want to change hearts.”
He explained that his community values inter-religious harmony and active community participation, and since the mosque opened in 2006, they never received a threat before aside from a lone “small act of graffiti” that was soon painted over.
If this attack stems from anti-Muslim hate, he added that his community wants to do more outreach to show Canadians that “there’s nothing to fear from being a friend with a Muslim.” He hopes that the perpetrators will also be willing to “come to the table” to discuss what happened.
“We would love to have that conversation,” Khan said. “And we’ll forgive you.”
Stephanie Bai is Broadview’s 2021 digital intern.
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