Peel police say they are investigating two incidents as possibly “hate-motivated” after a woman went to two Islamic centres in Mississauga last week and placed pages torn from a Qur’an on car windshields while making Islamophobic statements.
Police said a man filmed the woman while she distributed inflammatory flyers and freely provided her name to passersby, according to Const. Harinder Sohi, spokesperson for Peel Regional Police Service.
Investigators want to speak to the woman involved in the incidents. No arrests have been made and no charges have been laid.
Sohi said Peel police’s criminal investigation bureau at 12 Division is investigating.
“We got complaints coming in late last week that on various locations in Mississauga on March 22 that a female was attending Islamic religious centres in the city of Mississauga, and she was tearing pages out of a Qur’an, leaving these pages on windshields and trying to give some of these pages to the people entering the mosques,” Sohi said.
“We have listened to the complaints. Now we are trying to investigate what actually occurred here.”
Sohi said the first incident occurred at the Sayeda Khadiji Centre, 7150 Edwards Blvd., at 4:30 p.m., while the second incident occurred at Safa and Marwa Islamic School, which is part of the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre, at 5550 McAdam Rd., at 5:19 p.m.
Mischief, hate bias
In the second instance, she entered the building that contains the school and a mosque and tried to distribute pamphlets to people inside, Sohi said.
Police said the incidents are being investigated as possible mischief with a hate bias. That means if a person is convicted of mischief, hate bias could be a factor in sentencing.
“Peel Regional Police takes all of these incidents very seriously. We live in a multicultural society. We ask people to be tolerant of others,” Sohi said.
According to the Muslim Council of Peel, in the second incident, the woman entered the Dar Al-Tawheed mosque adjacent to the school, and “verbally abused” worshippers.
Community members and mosque staff asked her to leave and her actions were reported to Peel police.
Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Muslim Council of Peel, said at a news conference on Monday the woman is promoting hatred through her actions and online posts.
Khedr called for greater police presence to protect the mosque, a strengthening of laws, including the Canadian Human Rights Act, to prevent the spread of hate online, and for the actions of the woman to stop.
“Our Muslim community is not going to be fazed by someone like her who is trying to simply promote her personal agenda of hatred,” Khedr said.
“We are very comfortable in our communities, we are comfortable with our neighbours and we interact positively with everyone around us on a daily basis. We are not going to let the actions of a fringe person change how safe and comfortable we feel.”
Ibrahim Hindy, imam of Dar Al-Tawheed mosque, said the incident was not the first time that the mosque has been targeted. He said he has received a death threat and staff have reported previous suspicious behaviour to the police.
Imam ‘saddened’ by incident
“We live in a diverse, multicultural, multi-religious community,” he said. “I understand and respect that not everyone is going to agree with my religion, and I am respectful of that.”
But he said the “assault” on the mosque was not an attempt to generate a conversation or provide a critique of Islam and he is “saddened” by the incident.
“We should not have fear coming to our mosques, coming to our safe spaces, coming to our place of sanctuary where we peacefully gather to pray in dignity, in tranquillity and in serenity.”
Navdeep Bains, MP for Mississauga-Malton, said in a statement on Facebook that news of the incident “shocked” him, and he “strongly” denounced the actions.
Bains said freedom of religion is a constitutional right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allows believers the freedom to assemble and worship without interference.
Woman identified on Facebook
“This regrettable incident reminds us all of the importance to uphold the core values of the Canadian society: freedom, equality, openness and inclusion. These principles unite us and make us stronger as a country,” he said.
On the Facebook page of Never Again Canada, an organization that says it is dedicated to fighting antisemitism in Canada, the woman is identified as Sandra Solomon.
Never Again Canada expressed support for Solomon on Facebook on Sunday.
“Sandra Solomon has been portrayed in the news as a hate monger. Sandra was of victim of rape and other horrible things while living under Shariah law. Sandra Solomon is a survivor and she lives to tell her story. Never Again Canada gives a voice to the voiceless,” the post reads.