Muslim council says police too hesitant on 'hate crime' designation

Following an alleged act of arson at a local mosque, the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton is criticizing the police's 'hesitancy' to call the incident a hate crime.

A Hamilton man was charged with arson after a fire was started Wednesday night outside a mosque

Three men stand outside the Ibrahim Jame Mosque on Thursday September 15, 2016 hours after, police say, a man was charged with arson after setting fire to the entrance of the mosque. (David Beatty/CBC)

The Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton is criticizing the 'hesitancy' of Hamilton police to label an alleged arson at a downtown mosque a hate crime.

On Wednesday around 11:00 p.m., residents reported a man setting a fire on the doorstep of Ibrahim Jame Mosque,  on King Street East  near Sanford Avenue —an act that was also captured by a security camera. Police have arrested a 34 year-old Hamilton man named Keith Frederick under a charge of arson.

On Friday morning, Constable Steve Welton with the Hamilton Police told the CBC in an email that their ongoing investigation includes their Hate Crime Detective.

"These investigations take time in order to collect all the available evidence," Welton said. And that evidence "will determine the classification of any criminal act."

This attack came the night before the 15-year anniversary of the Hindu Samaj Temple arson, in which three men were charged with mischief for burning the building they thought was a mosque just days after 9/11.

On Thursday evening, the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton released a statement saying, "We are grateful to the Hamilton Police Service and their ability to apprehend a suspect [in] less than 24 hours," however, it is "concerned about [Hamilton Police's] hesitancy to call this crime what it is – a hate crime, particularly in light of growing Islamophobia in the general population."

On Thursday, when asked about the hate crime question, Welton told the CBC that, "given the backdrop of the location, it's certainly something we're considering as a police service."

The Muslim council is also calling for local Muslims to show solidarity with Ibrahim Jame by attending the mosque's Friday prayers.

Online, a member of the National Council of Canadian Muslims out of Ottawa praised police for the arrest.

There were other words of support for the mosque online:

dave.beatty@cbc.ca | @dbeatty