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'Next-level kind of hate': Alleged hate-driven arson concerning for Muslims and police

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As London, Ont. police continue to search for a suspect, concern is growing over an arson Saturday.

“To have somebody, set fire to somebody's house is really next-level kind of hate,” said Nawaz Tahir, spokesperson for the Muslim advocacy group HIKMA.

The front door of a home on Wateroak Drive in London, Ont. is boarded up after a man allegedly set fire to the front porch on the weekend.

“What we know right now, we're treating this as a hate motivated, incident,” said Det. Insp. Alex Krygsman of the London Police Service (LPS).

It was around 10:40 p.m. when first responders arrived on scene to douse the flames. No one was injured but the damage estimate is roughly $30,000.

CTV News has obtained surveillance video, which shows the suspect come to the home and steal signs supporting human rights in Palestine, as well as an Our London Family sign.

He also left a note on the porch, which read, “One more time if I see you put that stupid (expletive) Free Palestine…I’m warning you.”

A note left on the front porch of a home on Wateroak Drive in London, Ont. (Source: Fatimasal82/X)

“Further investigation, has led us to possibly linking several other previous incidents since the beginning of May to the same person,” said Krygsman.

The arson comes just days after the three-year anniversary of the attack on the Afzaal family in London. It took place just a short drive away from this latest incident.

It lead the Prime Minister to call recent incidents of Islamophobia “dangerous and ugly,” and that Canadians have to confront it “wherever and whenever we see it.”

London Mayor Josh Morgan has had a conversation with the family, who are “traumatized.”

"What they told me is the way the community and their neighbourhood has rallied and supported them in the face of this hateful act is inspiring,” said Morgan. “That’s the London I know. The neighbourhood I know and that's the best of our city."

The London Police Service has released an image of a suspect in an arson investigation following a house fire on Wateroak Drive on June 8, 2024. (Source: London Police Service).

LPS has set up a command post on a neighbouring street.

"'We’re continuing our canvass for video and for witnesses, but we also want to demonstrate a very clear and strong presence in the neighborhood to reassure the residents there that the police are investigating actively,” said Krygsman. “This is a safe city. I am proud of this city. There is no room for this in our community, and we are going to continue to investigate this.”

HIKMA appreciates that LPS has put a hate lens on the investigation as the family tries to cope.

“We know they're very concerned, for their safety and the safety of the neighborhood,” said Tahir. “They simply wanted to show their support for human rights in Palestine. They wanted to show their support for the Our London Family and to have this happen as a reaction to that is terrible and it's scary.”

Muslims renew call for governments to fulfill promises to combat Islamophobia after arson

NCCM Director of Legal Affairs Nusaiba Al-Azem speaks at a news conference in London Ontario (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) held a news conference in north London calling for government action to combat a pattern of Islamophobia that continues three years after members of the Afzaal family were killed in an act of terrorism.

“Our leaders must keep their words when they promised us change after June 2021,” said NCCM Director of Legal Affairs Nusaiba Al-Azem. “They came to our communities. They gave us many words— and we are beyond that now. We need concrete actions.”

Al-Azem called for:

  • better education against anti-Palestinian racism in schools
  • more effective anti-hate legislation
  • responsible leadership that does not inflame tensions

“Anything less than that is a betrayal of our promises and a betrayal of our principles,” she added.

On June 6, 2021, members of the Afzaal family were walking in northwest London when they were intentionally struck by a man driving a truck in an intentional act of racially-motivated terrorism.

Four members of the family were killed and a boy was seriously injured.

Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal, chair of the London Council of Imams, reflected on the sense of fear among the Muslim community in the city.

“Before, the message was that we can’t even walk on the streets without feeling a sense of fear, and now the message is we’re not even safe in our homes,” he explained. “As Canadians, we have to say, ‘No, we don’t accept this.’”

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