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Usama Zahid removes the Koran and other books from shelves during the cleanup after the only mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was deliberately set on fire Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Peterborough's local Muslim association has reopened its mosque after an arson involving a molotov cocktail and its leaders say they are donating $110,000 from an online fundraiser to a nearby women's shelter and centre for children with special needs.

Many Canadians were disappointed when someone set fire to the Masjid Al Salaam, the Central Ontario town's lone mosque, just a day after the deadly terrorist attacks hit Paris this November. A concerned citizen started an online fundraiser to repair the gutted interior of the building and donations soon soared, driven by donors as far away as France, according to Kenzu Abdella, president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association that runs the mosque.

Since insurance covered the cost of the rebuild, Mr. Abdella said the association decided to donate half the money raised to the YWCA Crossroads women's shelther and the other half to the Five Counties Children's Centre, which helps children and youth with physical, developmental, and communication needs.

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"We thought of many causes, but in the end everybody felt that women and children are the best place to support," said Mr. Abdella, an Ethiopian-Canadian who is also a math professor at Trent University. "Especially this group of kids and women because they are vulnerable and we kind of felt vulnerable at the time."

Peterborough is a small city about an hour northeast of Toronto. The mosque, now more than a decade old, sees more than 100 visitors each week for Friday prayers. The space is also used by children for instruction in Arabic and the Koran.

After 9/11 the association had the window of a previous building it used broken by vandals, Mr. Abdella said. Now, he hopes to continue the open dialogue that was started with the wider community after this latest incident, which is still being investigated as a hate crime by police.

"The way we see is that incidents happen because of ignorance and not understanding what Islam or Muslims are about," he said. "Through this we have had the opportunity to meet people."

To that end, the mosque will host an open house for Jan. 17 and anyone in the area is invited to join, he said.

Mr. Abdella said Canada still has a long way to go before xenophobia and racism is eliminated, but added that the "good thing is there's still a very large section of the people who can't stand for this."

The association installed several exterior security cameras at the mosque after being told by police that it may still be at further risk of another attack.

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