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‘Mosque of Peace’ set ablaze in Canada; two others in Florida threatened as discussion of Islam heats up

(Screen grab from Facebook/ <a href="">Peterborough Mosque Community Support</a> )

Members of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association in Peterborough, Ontario, gathered at their mosque Saturday night for a celebration. They drank tea and heralded the birth of a new baby.

At around 11 p.m., after all the attendees had left, smoke started rising from the inside.

Police were called and firefighters dispatched. When the association president, Kenzu Abdella, and several other members returned to the mosque, they found their place of worship rendered “unusable” by a deliberate fire, the Associated Press reports.

As of Sunday evening, police were still investigating whether the fire was connected to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Community members are calling the arson a “hate crime.”

“Attacking a place of worship is a despicable act,” Peterborough mayor Daryl Bennett wrote in a statement published to Twitter. “The faith communities are cornerstones of our city, contributing to charitable organizations and helping those who are less fortunate.”

No one was injured in the fire. Abdella told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the smoke damage will require $80,000 in repairs.

The mosque’s name, Masjid Al-Salaam, means “Mosque of Peace” in Arabic.

The blaze occurred amid growing fears that the Paris attacks will fuel Islamophobia around the world.

In Florida, two mosques received bomb threats by phone.

“This act in France is the last straw. You’re going to f—ing die,” said voice mails received by the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg late Friday night and early Saturday. “I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head. I don’t care if they’re f—ing 2 years old or 100.”

A second message said: “I’m a red-blooded American watching the news in France. … Guard your children. I don’t care if you’re extremists or not. … Get out of my f—ing country.”

The FBI is investigating the threat, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

A news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that another Florida mosque received a similar voice mail that threatened to “bomb the location” and shoot people “at will.”

[Aaron Rodgers praised for criticizing fan’s anti-Muslim comments]

Meanwhile in Orlando, a Muslim family came home from a charity event for the homeless Sunday morning to find a bullet hole in their garage door.

“Just a little bit of a black hole in a beige garage door, when we parked right there,” Amir Elmasri told Click Orlando. “So, it’s in front of my eyes and I said, ‘What is that?’ ”

It was the result of a bullet that had gone through the garage and into their master bedroom.

The women of the family wear traditional hijabs in public. They, as well as their neighbors, believe they were targeted for their faith.

Finally, Michigan police are investigating a Twitter threat made Saturday afternoon.

“Dearborn, MI has the highest Muslim population in the United States,” the now-deleted tweet read. “Let’s f— that place up and send a message to ISIS. We’re coming.”

These threats have emerged alongside a renewed discussion of violence and Islam in the aftermath of the most deadly assault on French soil since World War II. On Saturday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the violence.

A viral CNN interview discussing the question of whether Islam promotes violence is now being widely shared over a year after it first aired. The clip shows Reza Aslan, a religion scholar at the University of California at  Riverside, addressing generalizations about Muslim culture.

“This is the problem —  you’re talking about a religion of 1.5 billion people,” Aslan says in the clip. “It certainly becomes easy to simply paint them all with a single brush. … We’re using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That’s actually the definition of bigotry.”

CNN anchor Don Lemon followed this statement by asking, “Does Islam promote violence?”

To this, Aslan responded: “Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent.”

He said that, likewise, the “marauding Buddhist monks” in Myanmar who are killing women and children don’t indicate that Buddhism promotes violence.

As The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson noted Saturday, Muslims have also received a large amount of support on social media from users who defended Islam.

One phrase trending on Twitter declared: “Terrorism has NO religion.”

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