Man arrested on hate crime and arson charges in fire at Coachella Valley mosque

13 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California Mosque Fire Was Deliberately Set, Authorities Say.

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. Friday and booked on five felony charges, including commission of a hate crime, arson, maliciously setting a fire and second-degree burglary, according to law enforcement sources and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department booking records.

— A 23-year-old man was booked Saturday on arson and hate-crime charges in connection with a fire that burned through part of a Southern California mosque just before a prayer service on Friday. By late Friday night, the Sheriff’s Department released a statement calling the blaze “an intentional act” and saying it would use all available resources to investigate.

Authorities believe the attackers were self-radicalized Islamic extremists. “It’s horribly lamentable that we would paint any group as undesirables based on the actions of an extremely small number of radical folks that don’t represent the religion in any way,” he said. “If in fact it was done with the mosque as a target … it’s reprehensible, and the people who perpetrated that act should be treated the way we would any other terrorist.” Friday’s fire was reported about 12:10 p.m. inside the mosque in the 84600 block of Avenue 49 in Coachella, said Jennifer Fuhrman, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department. 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. 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. 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. Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.

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. 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. Hate incidents do not occur in a vacuum,” he said. “They are the natural result of a climate fueled by hatred, by fear mongering.” Ayloush said he does not want to rush to conclusions about whether the attack was a reprisal following the Dec. 2 San Bernardino shootings, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was a misguided response to the violence.

CAIR’s offices in Santa Clara and Washington, D.C., were evacuated Thursday after both buildings received threatening letters containing a powdery substance, Ahmad said. Khalil’s story is emblematic of how many Muslim Americans have come to respond in the wake of high-profile terrorist attacks, when hostility tends to rise and hate crimes to spike against Muslim communities across the United States. And even as local leaders work to form pockets of tolerance and compassion throughout the nation, radical political rhetoric combined with the amplifying power of social media have only exacerbated the public’s fears about Islam and those who practice it, advocacy leaders say. “The everyday Muslim, they’re thinking, ‘Here we go again,’ ” says Edgar Hopida of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), based in Plainfield, Ind. “It’s like a fire drill. It’s time to hide under the table again.” “We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” the organizers of the fundraiser say on the campaign web page. “No amount of money will bring back their loved ones, but we do hope to lessen their burden in some way.”

In this case, in Coachella, we don’t know the motive behind it yet,” Ahmad said. “It just comes to show how real ‘Islamaphobia’ is, how scary and how threatening it can become, and how dangerous Islamaphobia is to our nation and fellow Americans.” 12:41 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Hussam Ayloush, executive director of Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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