11/16/2015 10:19 EST | Updated 11/16/2016 05:12 EST

Peterborough Mosque Arson 'Not The Canadian Way,' Local MP Says

A fire set intentionally at a mosque in Peterborough, Ont., on Saturday was an "ugly, unacceptable act" that runs counter to the views of the people who have since come together to help the local Muslim community, the MP for the area said today. 

Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef, a Muslim who came to Canada as a refugee from Afghanistan 20 years ago, said she was "shaken up" by news of the fire at the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association's mosque. 

"This is not the Peterborough way, certainly not the Canadian way," said said Monday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Like everyone here … I was disappointed, shaken up and somewhat confused to be honest."

Authorities believe the fire was set intentionally. The blaze was contained inside the mosque and caused about $80,000 in damage.

Monsef said the community has come together to help the local congregation. Local churches and synagogues have offered the group space to worship and by this morning, more than $52,000 had been raised in a crowdfunding campaign to cover repair costs. 

"A few individuals may have decided to take part in an ugly act like this but the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive," said Monsef. "They are demonstrating that whoever did this, your neighbours don't agree with you.

Community has 'very loudly condemned this'

"There are people out there who believe that hate can overcome hate and that is not what's happening here in Peterborough-Kawartha," she said. "In the wake of that darkness, the people of this community have come together and very loudly condemned this.

Monsef came to the area as a refugee 20 years ago when she and her family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan. She said the community welcomed them "with open arms." Monsef said it's this spirit, not the one that motivated the arsonists who damaged the mosque, that defines her community. 

"As Canadians, we have the privilege of being able to choose: Do we want to be defined by fear and a divisive narrative, or do we want to be defined by who we truly are, which is a welcoming inclusive nation?"

Monsef, who is also the minister of democratic institutions, says the arson and Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris has not deterred the community's interest in accepting some of the 25,000 Syrian refugees the federal government has vowed will be settled in Canada in the next few weeks.

She said 25 local groups have come forward expressing an interest in sponsoring refuges from Syria. 

"Security continues to be top of mind for the people sitting around that table, making this decision," she said. "Canadians can rest assured that that level of care is going to continue to be provided even more so now."

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