Alberta mosque set ablaze in ‘brazen’ attack

A mosque in Edson, Alta. was set on fire late Saturday night shortly after a small group of people left the building after evening prayers.

The three people who were praying inside had left the mosque and were still in the parking lot when a fire started at the building’s south entrance at around 11 p.m. on June 16. 

Surveillance footage recorded by the mosque’s security cameras captured the flames as well as a person in a dark hoodie leaving the property with what appears to be a red jerrycan shortly after 11 p.m.

The fire burned for nearly 15 minutes before firefighters arrived to extinguish it, said Tufik Baterdouk, vice president of the Islamic Society of Edson.

“It was quite brazen,” Baterdouk said. “Typically you would think that someone who wants to commit arson or vandalism, if they see people … they probably would change their mind. But this individual, it does not seem to be a concern for him.

“That makes it a little bit more scary to see the fact that the individual knows that there’s people on the property, whether they’re inside or not, and he still went ahead with it.”

Someone set fire to the Edson Mosque late June 16, after a small group of people left the building after praying. (Supplied/Jocelyn Pettitt)

The fire left soot and scorch marks on the exterior of the building. The mosque was built five years ago using fire-resistant material.

Baterdouk, who has lived in Edson for 26 years, said he feels disappointed and shocked someone would act violently against his community. He called the fire an attack, and says it’s the only one to have happened to the mosque since it opened in 2013.

The fire happened one day after Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting.

“Having grown up here, I would not have thought that something like this would happen in a good town like our town,” Baterdouk said. 

“This is something that we will have to explain to our children … that kind of weighs on your mind,” he added. “Probably the hardest thing is having to try to explain to children why something like this could have happened.”

Around 15 families visit the mosque regularly, he said. 

The mosque is working with RCMP to investigate the fire, said Edson Islamic Society board member Jocelyn Pettitt. 

The society is not treating the fire as a hate crime until police share more information, she said.

“Our doors are always open,” Pettitt said. “If there is any concern or feelings of malice or confusion about our faith and our religion, come talk to us or any member of the Muslim community at the mosque. We have plenty of information and they’re always willing to answer questions.”

Edson RCMP could not be reached for comment on Sunday. The town is about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.

The June 16 fire is the only attack on the Edson Mosque since it opened in 2013. (Facebook)

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