No evidence Toronto mosque break-in was 'hate-motivated,' police say; investigation continues

·2 min read
Ransacked paperwork and religious texts left on the floor of the Baitul Jannah Islamic Centre are pictured on Aug. 23, 2021. The mosque was broken into and vandalized over the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Ransacked paperwork and religious texts left on the floor of the Baitul Jannah Islamic Centre are pictured on Aug. 23, 2021. The mosque was broken into and vandalized over the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Toronto police say there is no evidence to suggest a break-in at a Scarborough mosque over the weekend was hate-motivated, but that the investigation is still in its early stages.

Police say they received a report at about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday after the break-in at Baitul Jannah Islamic Centre was discovered in the early hours of the morning. A donation box and a video recording system were stolen. An office area was ransacked and a Quran and various books thrown to the floor, while another donation box was damaged.

"While there is no evidence to suggest this is hate-motivated at this time, out of an abundance of caution, our Hate Crime Unit has been notified and will support the ongoing investigation," police said in a statement Monday.

The mosque's president Atiqur Rahman told reporters Monday it's not the first time someone has broken into the building and that community members have been left shaken by the incident.

"We want protection from the law enforcement agency," he said.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Rahman said he was frustrated with the time it took for police to arrive, saying they were first called around 10 a.m., but arrived close to 2 p.m.

In a statement, police said there have been previous incidents at the location, including break and enters, in March, April and June of 2019.

One person was charged in connection with those, but it's too soon to know whether Sunday's break-in was connected to the earlier ones.

Police say they'll continue to update the public. For now, officers are advising the mosque on crime prevention and will maintain a visible presence in the area.

Though the motive remains unknown, politicians of various stripes spoke out against the incident, condemning anti-Muslim hate.

Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted he was "very angry."

"This kind of Islamophobic behaviour has no place in Toronto," he said. "Please help police bring those responsible to justice."

Bill Blair, the federal public safety minister and MP for Scarborough Southwest, tweeted he'd spoken with the mosque's president to express his support and discuss a grant of $68,000 to install fencing and other security measures there.

Ontario NDP MPP Doly Begum tweeted she was "devastated" to see the damage, calling for urgent action to address anti-Muslim hate.

Begum, who prays at the mosque, visited the building with provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Monday afternoon. Tory was also scheduled to visit Monday evening.

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