Vandalism at a Muslim high school in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is raising fears of anti-Muslim violence.
Staff discovered shattered windows in two classrooms when they arrived at about 7:30 Monday morning at the single-storey building on Cavendish Blvd., principal Fouzi Belaiboud said.
The damage was most likely caused by a pellet gun, Belaiboud said.
Constable Éric Labad, a Montreal police spokesperson, said investigators have no suspects in the case, which is being treated as a possible hate crime.
Ouahiba Douida, a mother at the school, said she demanded the school step up security after her children came home Monday with a letter informing parents of the attack. The letter also offered professional counselling for children traumatized by the event.
“It really scared me,” she said.
Douida said that local Muslims have been feeling increasingly targeted lately and she fears for her children’s safety. She said she was even considering switching them to a public school.
Two windows in two different classrooms were each punctured by what looked like two bullet holes, said a Secondary 5 student whose class was moved to a different room because of the broken windows. Labad said investigators were trying to confirm what weapon was used, probably a pellet or BB gun.
The vandalism underscores rising local social tensions in the wake of intense media coverage of international terrorist acts, including the Jan. 7 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical publication.
Over the weekend, the Collège de Rosemont, a public CEGEP, announced it was evicting an Arabic-language school to which it had been renting space after discovering links on the El Forkane school’s website to Web addresses promoting radical Islamic ideology. The school, which offered weekend classes for children, removed the links from its website and denied that it was promoting extremist ideas.
And last week, the Mercier–Hochelaga–Maisonneuve borough blocked a controversial imam from opening a community centre in the city’s east end, claiming his purpose was to radicalize youth. On Facebook, imam Hamza Chaoui denied the charge and accused Mayor Denis Coderre and borough mayor Réal Ménard of smearing his reputation.
The controversies also coincide with the recent tabling of federal anti-terrorist legislation following last October’s fatal attacks in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Some human-rights experts warn Bill C-51, which expands some powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and makes it a crime to advocate terrorism, would curtail fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Tuesday, the Quebec Collective against Islamophobia issued a statement denouncing the school attack.
“It’s a further sign of a deteriorating social climate for Quebec’s Muslims,” said Adil Charkaoui, coordinator of the non-profit group.
Two weeks ago, the collective held a conference saying media coverage of terrorist events is fuelling Islamophobia.
Charkaoui said the group had received 123 complaints of hateful acts against Muslims in the two weeks following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The group also registered 187 complaints of anti-Muslim bias in local media coverage.
Charkaoui said the attack on the school is just one example of rising hatred toward Muslims. He said the father of a girl attending a Laval high school complained Friday that his daughter’s teacher told a joke making fun of Muslim terrorists during an ethics class.