The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

September 26, 2008

FBI investigating torching of Joplin mosque’s sign

By Jeff Lehr

jlehr@joplinglobe.com

The FBI has taken over an investigation of the torching of the sign for the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque as a possible hate crime.

Somebody set the sign for the mosque at 1302 Black Cat Road on fire early Thursday morning. The Carl Junction Fire Department responded to a 1:26 a.m. report of the fire.

Fire Engineer Bill Nauta said there’s no doubt that the fire, which ruined the wooden sign, was deliberately set. Nauta said he could not tell if an accelerant had been used.

“I didn’t see anything spilled,” he said. “They would have to sample something at a lab.”

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department was notified of the arson and initiated an investigation, but the case was taken over on Friday by the FBI.

“I think this is a hate crime, yes,” said Navid Zaidi, treasurer for the board of directors of the Islamic Society of Joplin.

Zaidi said the mosque has not been the object of much racial or religious animosity since opening in February 2007. Someone stole two air conditioners from the mosque in the summer of that year, but that could not be construed as hate-motivated, he said.

More recently, a Muslim family leaving the mosque after a service was offended verbally by some young men in a pickup truck who had stopped to look at the sign, Zaidi said. They yelled some things that the family could not make out but sensed were racially hateful, he said. Zaidi did not know if that incident could be related to the fire.

The mosque’s congregation has grown to about 40 families, with some coming from as far away as Springfield and Tulsa, Okla., Zaidi said. It is open for prayer five times a day and is especially busy right now in the month of Ramadan, he said.

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