Man charged with vandalizing Montreal mosque, caught on camera
A member of the Montreal mosque that was vandalized Sunday as people prayed inside says the suspect stormed into the building screaming “something Islamophobic.”
Mohamad Jundi says a young member of the community was verbally assaulted and threatened outside the main entrance before the suspect smashed the glass door at the Al Omah Mosque located on Saint-Dominique Street downtown.
“He came behind, and he was carrying a metal shovel in his hand. He threatened this individual,” said Jundi, the mosque’s head of security, who says he was called to the scene after the incident.
It happened around 5 a.m. as about a dozen people prayed inside during the holy month of Ramadan, said Jundi.
The suspect threw the shovel on the ground, chased the young man and tried to hit him with another object, said Jundi.
The young man was able to get inside safely and close the door.
That’s when the suspect found a concrete block and smashed the glass door, said Jundi.
“He entered the main hall and started screaming,” he said. “He was screaming in French, but we didn’t get what he was screaming about.”
Jundi says he will speak to other members who witnessed the incident to find out exactly what was said, “but right now we know he was verbally abusing these guys, there was something Islamophobic.”
A surveillance video posted on the Canadian Muslim Forum Twitter account shows a man smashing the front glass door of the mosque, wandering inside and throwing what appears to be a cement cinder block at another glass door.
“Islamophobic terror continues across Canada,” tweeted the forum.
Jundi says the man ran away after several people inside confronted him and told him to leave.
Montreal police (SPVM) officers arrested a 32-year-old man and charged him with mischief.
‘THEY WERE SCARED FOR THEIR LIVES’
When he got the call early Sunday morning, “the first thing that came to mind was 2017,” said Jundi.
On Jan. 29, 2017, six men were killed and five critically injured shortly after evening prayer at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre.
“They thought that somebody was coming in, not only threatening(…)they were scared for their lives,” said Jundi.
The incident happened during Ramadan, a time when the mosque usually opens its doors to serve food for people.
“We will see how we will manage this after this incident,” he said, condemning the vandalism as “unacceptable and reprehensible.”
Jundi says he spoke with SPVM’s Hate Crimes Division, who told him they would do their best to patrol the area for a few days.
POLICE RESPONSE CRITICIZED
Muslim leaders are criticizing the police response to the break-in saying the alleged attack should be investigated as a hate crime.
Montreal police Const. Veronique Dubuc said Monday that investigators didn’t believe the incident was a hate crime, adding that the suspect would appear in court at a later date.
Later in the day, Const. Caroline Chevrefils said the force’s hate crimes unit would investigate because the incident occurred at a place of worship, but she said police still did not have evidence it was a hate crime.
Forum president Samer Majzoub said police should investigate whether the alleged attack was motivated by hate, adding that the break-in was not the first time mosques have been targeted in Canada.
“There are many explanations — this I know,” Majzoub said. “But the fact of the matter is it is a mosque that was being attacked, its worshippers who’ve been attacked.”
Mosque officials also criticized the fact the suspect was released shortly after being arrested.
Jundi said Montreal police officers were quick to arrive to the scene but never returned to speak with the worshippers who were inside the building when the incident occurred.
“The police officers did not get out of their car to speak to the people on-site,” said Jundi.
Jundi said the young man who escaped being attacked by the suspect was left shaken and had not returned to the mosque since the incident.
As well, one of the people who went to the police station to file a statement crossed paths with the suspect, who had been recently released from that station, Jundi said.
“He called me right away and said, ‘Mohammad, I can’t believe my eyes,”‘ Jundi said.
Jundi said when he spoke with a police inspector on Monday he learned that investigators didn’t know someone had been allegedly assaulted during the break-in.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News reporter Max Harrold.