Man says sorry for trying to burn down mosque
Convicted arsonist meets with Muslim leaders before court hearing
A man who bragged of bringing his own jihad against Muslims and then set fire to a Hamilton mosque apologized to local Muslim leaders in a private meeting at the courthouse on Thursday.
Keith Frederick, 35, met with the leaders in his holding cell before being brought into a courtroom for his sentencing hearing.
Frederick, given an opportunity to address the court, said he met Muslim community elders and mosque members. “I expressed my need for forgiveness. I apologized to the leaders.”
Ayman Al-Taher, imam at Ibrahim Jam-E Mosque, told The Spectator the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton agreed “to extend a hand to Frederick if he regretted his actions and was willing to change his perceptions.”
“The act of forgiveness and helping wrongdoers to change is rooted in Muslim belief,” Al-Taher said.
“My take is we’re not about revenge or causing more damage.”
Frederick pleaded guilty on March 20 to arson for setting fire to the front door of the Ibrahim Jam-E Mosque on King Street East, near Sanford Avenue, shortly after 11 p.m. on Sept. 14.
Damage from the fire was minimal because passersby and neighbours noticed the flames immediately and called 911. They put out the fire with buckets of water before emergency services arrived.
But the fire created a deep sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety among mosque members, a victim impact statement told court the day of Frederick’s guilty plea.
In court Thursday, Frederick told Justice Martha Zivolak he was sorry for what he did.
“I thought many times about what happened,” he said. “I thought it was all a dream … When I realized what I’d done, I felt shame.”
Crown prosecutor Todd Norman called for Frederick to be sentenced to two to two-and-a-half years. Norman argued the significant time was appropriate given that “this is a hate crime,” which requires a stiff penalty.
Norman pointed to text messages police found between Frederick and his uncle in the three weeks before the arson. In some, Frederick said: “I’ll bring my own jihad to those camel f---ers”; “Wish I could get my hands on some dynamite”; and “The place of their worship is burning tonight.”
“He planned over a two-week period. He sought explosives, firearms, and ultimately resorted to what he has access to, and that is gasoline,” the prosecutor said. “There was deliberate planning to do harm to the Muslim community … his actions were motivated by prejudice and bias.”
Frederick’s attempt to destroy a place of worship “undermines the freedom of religion that Canadians cherish,” Norman added. “People should be safe in their place of worship.”
Frederick’s lawyer, Vikram Singh, suggested a sentence between the eight months his client has already served and the Crown’s proposal.
He said Frederick has an alcohol issue and suffers from depression and anxiety. Singh also said the Hamilton native didn’t know his father until he was 13. After attending St. Helen’s Catholic elementary school, he went to Baptist Academy, where “he was punished with physical force.”
Singh said the meeting with Muslim elders “went well.”
Outside court, he described it as “a really positive interaction.”
Fredericks returns for sentencing Wednesday.