HAMILTON Downtown Mosque leaders are saying they are the victims of a hate crime after two copies of a cartoon depicting a caveman dropping a Quran into an open fire were taped to the women’s prayer entrance.
The cartoons, which include the words “primitive man discovers fire,” were found duct-taped to the doors of 96 Wilson St., on Sunday.
The image, an editorial cartoon, was originally published in the Toronto Star in September 2010 as a critique of Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ “International Burn a Quran Day.”
“It was an attack on Pastor Terry Jones, calling him a primitive man,” Toronto Star spokesperson Bob Hepburn said Tuesday, adding that it was in no way an attack on Islam.
At the time of publication, the Star did not receive any formal complaints, Hepburn said.
It’s not the original intent, but rather the intention of the culprit that has Imam Sayed Tora concerned. “If a person wants to show support for the Muslim community, there are many other ways to do it,” he said.
Hamilton police spokesperson Catherine Martin said the hate crime unit is investigating whether the incident constitutes a hate crime (see sidebar) and are asking anyone with information to come forward.
The cartoons were discovered by the mosque’s board president, Wahed Al-Jabry, around 4 p.m. as the community prepared for a fast-breaking meal to celebrate the ninth day of Muharram – the first month in the Islamic calendar. Another member found plants around the mosque had been uprooted.
Tora said the board gathered to discuss the incident, before deciding to report it to police Monday. The images and surveillance footage was handed over.
The recording shows a dark, four-door car pull up in the mosque’s east parking lot around 3:45 p.m.. The driver remains in the car, while the passenger – a bald, white man – jumps out and carries what looks to be the two pieces of paper already taped together towards the mosque.
The community is feeling stressed and fearful, Tora said, adding that his own nine-year-old daughter asked him whether the mosque will be attacked.
The mosque cancelled children’s classes and the homework club Monday and Tuesday. After being promised increased police patrol, he said classes may resume soon.
It’s “reasonable to assume” that the perpetrator was not posting the cartoon to support the Muslim community, but rather to support the ideas of Pastor Terry Jones, said Hussein Hamdani, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton, of which the Downtown Mosque is a member.
He said the events are particularly disturbing since the mosque just held a well-attended open house.
Most hate crimes against Muslims go unreported, Hamdani said. That’s why it was important for the community to speak out.