Police investigate possible arson at Ottawa Islamic community centre
This is the second time in a week the Islamic Care Centre on Somerset Street has been targeted.
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For the second time in a week, an Islamic community centre in Centretown has been the target of a possible hate crime.
Early Wednesday morning, someone piled debris against the back door of the Islamic Care Centre on Somerset, near Bank, and set it alight. The Ottawa police arson unit is investigating.
Around the same time, security footage shows, someone slipped a note through the centre’s mail slot. The centre’s executive director, Omar Mahfoudhi, said that he had not seen the contents of the note but was told by officers it was threatening.
Ottawa Police Const. Chuck Benoit confirmed a message was left behind around the time of the fire. He would not specify the message’s contents.
Centre’s public outreach supplies damaged
Mahfoudhi said the fire happened beside the door to the centre’s storage area and that water from the fire hoses damaged some of the supplies.
“That door is right next to the refrigerator that we keep the food in for the lunch bags for the homeless,” he said. The centre provides free lunches on Saturdays to anyone who comes by, whether Muslim or not.
Mahfoudhi said that staff will now inspect the centre’s prayer mats, books and religious artifacts, which it uses for outreach programs at local detention centres and hospitals.
“It’s a lot of stuff so we’re going to need some help taking it all out and sorting through it.”
Second attack in a week
On April 12, a rock was thrown through the window of the centre’s front door, Mahfoudhi said.
A window at the Ottawa Mosque was also broken.
Police charged Shawn Le Guerrier, 27, with two counts of mischief in the incidents. Police say he turned himself into police and admitted to vandalizing both buildings. He is also facing a charge of assaulting an officer.
Mahfoudhi said the centre is considering adding extra security measures.
“Our law enforcement try hard, but I think we also have to be a little more vigilant,” he said, adding the centre will also try to do more to educate the community about the role they play in it.
“If anyone out there is maybe feeling they don’t know the Muslim community well enough and they have questions or concerns or thoughts. This is what we do at our centre. We welcome people to come and ask questions and have a conversation,” he said.