By Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Islamic Society of Joplin will build its permanent mosque inside the city, members overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday.
“The majority of the members voted that they don’t want to return to the old site,” said Lahmuddin, the imam.
Lahmuddin said 90 percent of the around 40 members who met Wednesday voted to build inside the city, rather than rebuild at the location of the mosque that on Aug. 6 was destroyed in a suspicious fire.
A location inside the city has not yet been determined, he said.
Local Muslims currently are praying at a temporary location at the Pavilions West Shopping Center, 32nd Street and McClelland Boulevard.
No cause has been determined for the Aug. 6 fire, and there have been no arrests. An arson fire at the mosque on July 4 caused minor exterior damage to the building. A surveillance video of that incident shows a man wearing dark clothes, including a long-sleeved shirt, igniting a package and tossing it onto the roof of the building before awkwardly running away toward the east.
Lahmuddin said there was good discussion before the vote. All members had been invited. He said members thought security would be better inside the city, and that more people would be watching for suspicious behavior in town than in the rural setting of the mosque at 13th Street and Black Cat Road.
One member who is a doctor said most of his patients over the past two months have told him they want the mosque inside the city, Lahmuddin said.
Lahmuddin said the mosque also would have better access to utilities inside the city limits.
Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts, at an interfaith dinner a few days after the mosque was destroyed, called the mosque burning “a crime against everything this country represents.”
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have increased the reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the July 4 fire to $50,000.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, also has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those involved in either of the fires.
CAIR recently awarded the Islamic Society of Joplin its 2012 Courage Award.
Bridget Patton, FBI spokeswoman, said agents are continuing to investigate and to follow up on leads.
PEOPLE MAY CALL the FBI’s Joplin field office at 417-206-5700 with tips or information about the mosque fires. Surveillance videos and enhanced photos from the July 4 fire are online at fbi.gov/kansascity.