NEWS

Gatineau mosque attack called hate crime

01/04/2012 08:43 EST | Updated 03/05/2012 05:12 EST

Police should investigate an unsolved attack on a Gatineau, Que., mosque as a "potential" hate crime, a national Muslim organization says.

Video surveillance caught a man between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday attempting to set fire to two cars parked at the Outaouais Islamic Centre, according to Amadou Thiam, secretary general at the mosque.

When people arrived Monday, Thiam said, they found front and side windows smashed on the cars, along with a wad of paper stuffed into a gas tank. Two windows at the mosque were also broken, the second time in the last month and third time in four months the mosque has been a target of vandals.

Group says hate crimes under-reported

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said the attack should be investigated to determine whether it is a hate crime.

Ihsaan Gardee said mosques are reluctant to admit acts may be motivated by hate because there is fear, a common cause of under-reporting of hate crimes.

"There's fear of reprisal — they just want to get on with life and so forth," said Ihsaan Gardee, CAIR-CAN's executive director. "But we are encouraging them to contact their local authorities so that a clear record of these types of incidents can be kept."

Thiam said he believes people respect the mosque as a place of worship and would not attack it in hate.

Security camera footage of the parking lot is now in the hands of Gatineau police, who continue to investigate. They also confirmed there are multiple investigations into vandalism at the Outaouais Islamic Centre.

In the last two years, police say, hate crimes have almost tripled in the Ottawa area, rising to 134 from 51.

The mosque, located off Saint Joseph Boulevard just north of St. Jean-Bosco Park, draws about 500 people for Friday prayers and serves a community estimated at close to 5,000 people.

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