Man who set fire to mosque gets 2 years
Membership forgives Keith Frederick after he apologizes, but judge insists on deterrence
A judge acknowledged the forgiveness of the Muslim community before sentencing a man who started a small fire at a city mosque last fall but said the punishment still requires a significant sentence.
Judge Martha Zivolak sentenced Keith Frederick to 25 months for committing arson by setting a fire to the front door of the Ibrahim Jam-E mosque on Sept. 14.
Given 12 months credit for the time that he spent in custody since his arrest right after the fire, Frederick has 12 months and three days left.
The damage to the mosque was minimal since passersby noticed and called 911 while they and neighbours used buckets to put the fire out just after 11 p.m.
But court heard in a victim impact statement read out by mosque finan- cial director Sayed Hashemi in March that the repercussions have been significant, with fear the driving factor in drastically reducing the number of people now attending the mosque.
Outside court Wednesday, Hashemi said the mosque has lost $4,000 a month in the donations it runs on.
Hashemi, Imam Ayman AlTaher and Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton chair Ali Ghouse said the city’s Muslim community has forgiven Frederick.
Al-Taher said he is encouraged that Frederick “has understood he has done wrong and is reaching out to the Muslim community.”
“We’re not about punishing. We’re about reconciliation … living in harmony. This is our hope.”
Ghouse said, “The incident impacted everyone in the city. Hamilton has 30,000 Muslims.”
But he said Frederick demonstrated two important things: remorse and a willingness to learn about Islam.
Frederick pleaded guilty on March 20, but was sentenced on Wednesday after a pre-sentence report and defence and Crown submissions last week.
Zivolak said Frederick’s guilty plea showed a significant amount of remorse, but that remorse was “made true” by his apology to the mosque members and the Muslim community in a meeting last week before his court appearance.
She also noted his difficulties in life, including a dysfunctional upbringing, struggles with alcohol, anxiety and depression.
But Zivolak also said, “It’s clear this is a crime based on prejudice and hate”.
As such, it requires a significant sentence, she said.
Frederick is also prohibited from owning incendiary devices during a three-year probationary period. He’s barred from owning weapons for life. He is also not permitted within 100 metres of any mosque in the city.
Imam Ayman Al-Tahir