The president of the Baitul Hadi Mosque in east Edmonton says he has felt awful ever since he discovered a large swastika that someone spray-painted on the back of the building.
“It was not a good feeling that a symbol of hate was painted on our wall — at a mosque, which is usually a place of worship, a place of gathering,” Humayun Ahmed told Global News on Tuesday night.
He said the vandalism was first spotted in the morning, and police were contacted. He said the symbol of hate will be removed once the investigation is complete.
“(We are) sad and troubled,” Ahmed said, adding that the mosque has had windows smashed before but “this is a different nature.”
The Muslim organization Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada issued a statement saying it was “deeply troubled and concerned” to learn of the symbol being painted on the mosque.
“We are deeply disturbed by the rising acts of violence against the Muslim community,” said Nasir Butt, the imam of the Baitul Hadi Mosque.
“This is not the way of Canadians, and we must work together to combat anti-Muslim sentiment.”
Edmonton police said the incident was reported to them on Tuesday afternoon.
“The preliminary investigation has revealed that this symbol may have been there since as early as April, however police continue to actively investigate the matter,” the EPS said in a statement on Wednesday.
“In April, two other similar incidents of hate vandalism were reported to the EPS within the same neighborhood, on both a vehicle and a fence. Investigators believe the same suspect(s) may be responsible for all three instances.”
Police said while the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit is being consulted, the investigation “remains with divisional investigators at this time.”
The vandalism comes as recent attacks against Muslims have thrust Islamophobia back into the national spotlight.
On June 6, four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., were killed and another injured after they were hit by a vehicle while out for a walk. Police have said they believe the attack was motivated by hate, and the suspect was charged with murder and terrorism.
READ MORE: London attack suspect charged with terrorism
“It’s tough,” Ahmed said. “We are still saddened by the tragedy we saw in London, Ont.
“It seems that Islamophobia has been on the rise recently.”
In Edmonton, a group representing Somali Canadians alleges a Black woman wearing a hijab was walking by herself in northeast Edmonton on Friday night when a man grabbed her by her neck and pushed her to the sidewalk before fleeing the scene.
There have been attacks on Muslim women in Alberta’s capital in recent months.
“I think it is about time that this is taken seriously and something is done about Islamophobia,” Ahmed said. “Canada is a great country. It promotes multiculturalism.
“It’s a country that is famous for its message of peace and inclusion, but this event has shaken us a bit about the direction in which the society is moving slowly.”
Ahmed said he believes recent attacks on Muslims are driven by a hatred of Islam. He said Islam is a religion of peace and his mosque tries to engage with its neighbours and other faith communities to bond over what they have in common rather than what makes them different.
“This could happen to any place of worship,” he said, saying he offers support for other churches and synagogues as well.
“It’s a time for us to come together… (and) find ways to address this hatred with a united message of letting go of any kind of anger or hatred and try to understand each other.
“(We will) keep on spreading the message of peace and love. We wish for the community to be united against this kind of hate.”
Watch below: (From June 14, 2021) Another attack on another Muslim woman in Edmonton has generated new fear and anger. Muslim women say they are changing how they live their lives because they worry they could be next, and they want help. Fletcher Kent has more.