The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

August 8, 2012

Arson, vandalism at mosques not uncommon

JOPLIN, Mo. — Three suspicious fires within four years at the mosque west of Joplin are part of a national trend.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have tracked dozens of fires, firebombings and incidents of vandalism at mosques around the country in recent years.

This week, the relations council, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, issued a “community safety advisory” for American mosques after a vandalism incident Sunday at a mosque in North Smithfield, R.I.

“We urge Muslim leaders nationwide to take immediate steps to boost security, particularly in the last 10 days of the ongoing fast of Ramadan, when religious activities at mosques reach their peak,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of the council, said in a statement.

Awad recommended that Muslims meet with local law enforcement and request more patrols near mosques, that mosques install video surveillance cameras, alarms and perimeter lighting, that they document any suspicious behavior and vehicles, and that they cooperate with neighborhood watch groups.

Among the attacks on mosques in the past two years have been these, according to the council:

• In July, a South Carolina mosque was vandalized when someone threw a large outdoor concrete ashtray through a window.

• In June, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the FBI to investigate a possible bias motive for a fire and hate graffiti targeting a building associated with a Dearborn mosque.

• In April, someone threw a rock through a rear window of the Bab E Mustafa Community Center in the Riverview area of Baltimore County, Md.

• In January, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the FBI and local law enforcement to investigate vandalism targeting a mosque under construction in Virginia. Vandals smashed glass in windows and doors of the Chantilly mosque, causing an estimated $60,000 in damage.

• A mosque in Queens, N.Y., was firebombed in January with worshippers inside. There were no injuries.

• An Oct. 31, 2011, arson fire at a mosque in Wichita, Kan., caused an estimated $120,000 in damage.

• An arson attack on a Houston, Texas, mosque was reported in May 2011.

• In April 2011, someone burned three copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and left a threatening letter near the entrance of the Islamic Center of Springfield, Mo., mosque. The anonymous letter claimed that Muslims would “stain the earth” and that Islam wouldn’t survive.

• A fire at a Kansas City mosque in February 2011 was termed “suspicious.”

• Construction equipment was set afire at the site of a mosque being built in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in August 2010.

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