Edmonton mosque vandalized with painted swastika

A swastika was discovered Tuesday on the wall of the Baitul Hadi Mosque in the Ottewell neighbourhood.

Vandalism comes just days after a violent attack on a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab in Edmonton

Baitul Hadi Mosque in Edmonton was recently vandalized with a swastika symbol. (Submitted by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada)

Police are investigating after an east Edmonton mosque was vandalized with a swastika — and investigators said the incident might be related to two other instances of hate vandalism in the area. 

A swastika was discovered Tuesday on the wall of the Baitul Hadi Mosque in the Ottewell neighbourhood, on 98th Avenue near 71st Street.

It was discovered just nine days after a violent attack left four members of a Muslim family dead in London, Ont.

"We are deeply disturbed by the rising acts of violence against the Muslim community," said Baitul Hadi Mosque Imam Nasir Butt in a statement. 

In a statement issued Wednesday, Edmonton Police Service (EPS) said the hate crimes unit had been consulted, but the investigation was being led by divisional investigators. 

Police say the swastika may have been placed on the mosque as early as April, when two other similar incidents of hate vandalism were reported in the neighbourhood, on both a vehicle and a fence. 

Investigators believe the same suspect or suspects may be responsible for all three incidents, EPS said. 

"Investigating members are in close contact with the Baitul Hadi mosque as they work through the investigation," police said in the emailed statement. 

Mosque president Humayun Ahmed said the graffiti is only visible from the back alley and could have been easily missed, but was reported as soon it was discovered.

He said police have been supportive in their response but he believes the hate crimes unit should be asked to handle the investigation. 

"This event has greatly troubled and saddened us, and all of our neighbours," he said in an interview Wednesday. "We believe that this kind of faith-based hate crime has no place in Canada." 

Ahmed said the city and police have offered counselling services for mosque members. Security at the building will be increased, he said.

He said the mosque will continue its community outreach and education efforts in a bid to root out hatred and dispel misconceptions about the Muslim faith. 

 "The real teachings of Islam promote peace and unity among different faiths." 

"We would like to see ... an effort to unify in the face of this tragedy and give a positive response."

The vandalism was discovered days after a violent attack on a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab in north Edmonton. There have been at least six hate-motivated attacks on Black and racialized Muslim women in Edmonton in recent months.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said it was "hurtful" to see the mosque vandalized.

"I have visited this mosque many times," Kenney said on Twitter. "A wonderful community made up of proud Canadians who are constantly giving back to our broader community. I hope the hateful vandals responsible for this are identified and face the full legal consequences."

He pointed to a new grant program that helps fund security measures to deter hate crimes.

Safwan Choudhry, a spokesperson for national council Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, said the vandalism is a black eye for Edmonton and Alberta.

Choudhry said Canadian Muslims are on edge with the increase in incidents of violence against members of the community. People in Edmonton are particularly fearful, he said.

"We try to be as vigilant as we can be, with all of the security protocols that one can think of, but these hateful incidents continue to occur," he said. 

"People that are bent on dividing society and creating fear of one another cannot win."