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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Muslim family’s home targeted in arson attack in London, Ontario

In a disturbing incident of arson targeting a Muslim family in London, Ontario, police are treating the attack as a hate crime.

In a disturbing incident of arson targeting a Muslim family in London, Ontario, police are treating the attack as a hate crime. The family, vocal supporters of Palestinian rights, had previously faced harassment, including the theft of signs expressing their stance. This attack highlights the persistent threat of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiment in the community.

The Incident

On Saturday night at approximately 10:40 PM, fire crews responded to a blaze at a residence on Wateroak Drive in London, Ontario. The house was empty at the time, and no injuries were reported. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which caused around $30,000 in damages. Surveillance footage revealed a man stealing signs supporting Palestinian human rights and leaving a threatening note before returning an hour later to set the fire.

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Reactions and Responses

Local officials and community leaders have condemned the attack. Nawaz Tahir, spokesperson for the Muslim advocacy group HIKMA, emphasized the severity of the crime, stating, “To have somebody set fire to somebody’s house is really next-level kind of hate.” London Mayor Josh Morgan praised the community’s support for the affected family, calling it “inspiring” and highlighting the city’s resilience against such hateful acts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also expressed their solidarity with the family and condemned the rise in Islamophobia. Trudeau tweeted, “Canadians have seen how dangerous and ugly Islamophobia is. We have to keep confronting it—wherever and whenever we see it.”

Historical Context and Community Impact

This arson attack occurred just days after the third anniversary of a devastating hate crime in London. In June 2021, four members of the Afzaal family were killed in an intentional act of terrorism, leaving a young boy seriously injured. This recent incident has reignited fears within the Muslim community, as Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal of the London Council of Imams noted, “Before, the message was that we can’t even walk on the streets without feeling a sense of fear, and now the message is we’re not even safe in our homes.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) held a news conference calling for stronger government action to combat Islamophobia. NCCM Director of Legal Affairs Nusaiba Al-Azem stressed the need for concrete measures, including better education against anti-Palestinian racism in schools and more effective anti-hate legislation.

Ongoing Investigation

The London Police Service (LPS) is actively investigating the incident, treating it as a hate-motivated crime. Detective-Inspector Alex Krygsman stated that the same suspect is believed to be responsible for several previous incidents at the same residence since May, including property damage and theft. Police have released a photograph of the suspect, described as a man between 30 and 50 years old with a medium to heavy build, and are appealing to the public for any information that could lead to an arrest.

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Community leaders and activists are urging the government to take decisive action to prevent further incidents of hate-motivated violence. They argue that the persistence of such attacks highlights the need for systemic changes and stronger protections for vulnerable communities. “Our leaders must keep their words when they promised us change,” said Al-Azem, reflecting the broader sentiment within the Muslim community and beyond.