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[Pictured] Kenzu Abedalla, President of the Kawartha Lakes Muslim Association; Jesse Cullen, President of the Student Association at Durham College & UOIT; Mike Guerard, VP College Affairs; and Siraj Syed, VP University Affairs. and Siraj Syed, VP University Affairs. Photo by Dan MacInally[/caption]Peterborough residents are rebuilding hope and solidarity after an alleged hate crime set the local mosque in flames. Support has surged through the community via donations since last weekend— sending a loud remark that citizens won’t be divided following ISIS related bombings in France. One of the thousands of donors was the SA executive team of Durham College and UOIT. The team gave $5,000 to the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association on Friday.
“We decided to travel to Peterborough to deliver the cheque personally and we were welcomed with open arms by the local Muslim community,” said DC and UOIT SA president Jesse Cullen. “It was inspiring to see how quickly the community has reacted to this attack and we were told the Mosque would be up and running within three weeks.”
On Nov. 14 one of the mosque’s windows was smashed and an accelerant was lit on fire inside of the building. Photos of mosque members cleaning debris and books from the building swept through national media, inciting comments from Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne.
Both political leaders called the incident disturbing and pledged to bring the criminals to justice. According to police, there is a surveillance video currently being viewed in hopes of connecting someone to the crime.
Despite the startling nature of the incident, progress is quickly building. Just two days after the building was set ablaze, an online crowdfunding campaign reached $110, 536 with over 2,000 donors, exceeding the initial monetary goal by $30,000. The FundRazr campaign closed early since the $80,000 estimate of smoke damage was matched within 48 hours. The online fundraiser was orchestrated by members of the community who are not directly associated with the mosque. After restoration is complete extra funds will go to charity.
Up to 1,000 Muslims call the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association mosque their spiritual home. The religious center has received support in several ways. On Friday the Trent Muslim Students’ Association and the Trent Central Student Association organized a bus to attend the congregation’s evening prayer. In addition, Mark Street’s United Church has opened its doors to displaced Muslims for a place of worship and prayer.
Durham College and UOIT’s financial contribution came from the school’s Executive Initiatives budget of about $25,000 that the team uses to implement programs and initiatives of the SA Executive.
“We decided to donate $5,000 because we knew we had the capacity to donate a significant amount,” said Cullen. “We believe student unions play an important role in society and we wanted to demonstrate why it is important for students to pool our collective resources to affect change beyond our campus borders.”
And across borders is where much hostility can be bridged. Since the Paris bombings, various hate crimes have arose leaving many Muslims feeling prosecuted and unsafe. One such example is of a North York Muslim woman who was assaulted, robbed, and racially harassed while picking up her children from school.
The assault left her wounded in the hospital. But following Peterborough’s arson, support groups have formed, such as the Peterborough Mosque Community Support Facebook group. Such solidarity signals that the region wont let suspected Islamophobia be what defines it.
“While deeply hurtful and offensive, Canadian Muslims know that such acts do not represent the views of the vast majority of their fellow Canadians or of the residents of Canada,” said the Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims Ihsaan Gardee in a striking statement.
Cullen echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think, most importantly, this isn’t about our donation, it is about standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community to denounce racism and Islamophobia,” he said.
“It is also about a public display of love and solidarity to send a message to our campus and the broader community that we will not tolerate bigotry and hate.”