Man Accused of Hate Crime, Arson in California Mosque Fire

13 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Fire at California mosque being investigated as possible hate crime, police say.

COACHELLA, Calif. (AP) — A 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime and arson in connection with a Southern California mosque fire. The fire comes against the backdrop of increasingly heated rhetoric after the San Bernardino shooting carried out by Islamic extremists, and Donald Trump’s proposal that the U.S. ban all Muslim immigration. The suspect, Carl James Dial, was arrested just before 9 p.m. on Friday and booked Saturday on five felony charges related to the smoky blaze at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley, according to online booking records of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, which forced an immediate evacuation of the building, but smoke left damages throughout the structure, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Sheriff’s Department “believes this is an intentional act, and we are using all available resources to follow up on any leads that are brought to our attention,” Deputy Armando Munoz, a department spokesman, said in a statement Friday evening. “Cal Fire and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting us with this investigation.” The fire started about 15 minutes before an afternoon prayer service. People at the mosque described hearing a “loud boom” and seeing flames, said Reymundo Nour, the mosque’s acting imam, who was not on the site at the time. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. He said the mosque had been “firebombed.” The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where last week a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people.

The mosque’s congregation is a diverse group, made up of people from several countries and economic backgrounds, said Alwishah, who added that worshipers had a “feeling of devastation” after the incident. Offices belonging to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Santa Clara, Calif., and Washington, D.C., were evacuated after letters containing a powdery substance arrived at each building on Thursday. Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance. More than a dozen firefighters arrived within minutes and contained the fire to the lobby, although there was smoke damage throughout the building, officials said.

Salahaldeen Alwishah, 27, told the Times that he believed “it was the will of God” that more people weren’t inside the mosque when the fire began. “We see this as a cowardly act of vandalism that we do not tolerate in our community,” Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez said in statement released Friday evening. “Freedom of religion is one of our core values in this country, so any time we witness violence or vandalism directed at a religious institution, it flies in the face of everything we stand for and believe in as Americans. The Sheriff’s Department said Friday that it believed the fire had been deliberately set and that federal investigators were participating in the investigation.

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