(Montreal) A 32-year-old man is charged with mischief after he smashed the window of a mosque in downtown Montreal on Sunday morning. Filmed by a surveillance camera, the individual armed with a stick pursued a young Muslim, who took refuge inside the place of worship.
According to the Montreal Police Service, nothing points to a hate crime at this stage of the investigation, but the faithful denounce an Islamophobic attack.
“I was banging hard on the door and screaming for help. I was screaming to be heard,” whispers Malik Koné, still shaken.
Shortly after 5 a.m. on Sunday, the young man went to the Al Oumma mosque, located at the intersection of Saint-Dominique and René-Lévesque, for morning prayer.
“When I walked in, I heard someone screaming. I looked up, and I saw a gentleman in front of the door of the mosque. He closed the [gate] and he started to rush at me, ”says the young man.
Two worshipers in the prayer room heard her cries for help and opened the door for her before contacting the police.
A video surveillance shows the teenager pursued by the suspect taking refuge inside the mosque. The individual smashes the window of the front door, enters the place of worship, then throws a stone at the door that leads to the prayer room. The video then shows an altercation between the individual and a few worshipers.
Charged with mischief, the suspect was released on a promise to appear on May 9. As the incident took place at a mosque, the investigation was transferred to the Hate Incidents and Crimes team.
“So far, there is no indication that this could be a hate crime,” said spokesperson for the Montreal Police Service, Caroline Chèvrefils.
Some worshipers, however, are convinced that the mosque was targeted. “It’s a hate crime. They say it’s crazy, but it doesn’t work. A madman does not wake up in the morning and say to himself “I am going to attack a mosque”, castigates Moustafa Marhraoui.
The Muslim himself was present during the attack. “We were praying in the morning, and we heard a boom. Then a second boom. Someone could be heard shouting “Get out! Get out!” “, he says.
Malik Koné claims that he was never questioned by the police. According to him, this one must go to the end of its investigation in order to understand the motivations of the individual.
“This morning, I was a little scared leaving my house. He had a stick, but he could have had something else, a knife, ”drops Malik Koné.
On leaving the mosque, Mohammad Amin Zamani also wonders about the reason for the gesture.
“It gives me a bad feeling. It’s not that I’m scared, but you don’t want such things to happen in a place where you live,” he said.
The Canadian Muslim Forum, which shared the surveillance video on social media, criticized the police response which freed the suspect shortly after his arrest.
“There are many explanations — I know that. But the fact is that it was a mosque that was attacked, its worshipers were attacked,” its president, Samer Majzoub, told La Presse Canadienne.
The incident came days after a man showed up at a mosque north of Toronto shouting Islamophobic slurs and driving his vehicle into a worshipper. The 28-year-old was charged with assault with a weapon, uttering threats and dangerous operation of a vehicle.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon, authorities at the Markham Mosque called on the provincial and federal governments to take action following an alleged hate-motivated attack.
The Parti Québécois on Monday denounced a “hateful attack against members of the Muslim community”. “Everyone should be able to feel safe, at all times, regardless of everyone’s convictions and beliefs,” said its leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, on Twitter.
The deputy for Laurier-Dorion, Andrés Fontecilla, also condemned “without any reservations this Islamophobic attack against the Al-Oumma Mosque which occurred in the middle of the month of Ramadan”.
“I am still surprised that the assailant was released so easily, but let justice take its course,” added the elected representative of Quebec solidaire.
Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Sœurs MP Marc Miller said he hoped “that this Islamophobic attack will be fully investigated by the SPVM.”
“The faithful should feel safe when they gather for their prayers,” the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations continued in a tweet.