The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 6, 2012

‘Suspicious’ fire leads to destruction of Joplin mosque

By Kelsey Ryan
kryan@joplinglobe.com

JOPLIN, Mo. — About a month after the Joplin Islamic Society’s roof was damaged in a suspected arson, the entire building burned down in a suspicious early morning fire on Monday, leaving little but charred remains.

The remains of the structure were still smoldering at 8 a.m. as Carl Junction fire crews started to leave the scene. They received a call from a passerby around 3:30 a.m.

“This should not stop us from serving God,” said Imam Lahmuddin, the mosque’s religious leader. “We still have to fulfill our obligation. We will do our prayer in other places. If we don’t find a place, we will do our prayers in our home. We cannot miss any of the five prayers.”

Lahmuddin said they do not have plans yet for where they will pray, but it is still early.

“We just take this as a test from God. God is testing us. This is the month of Ramadan. We are fasting we are not supposed to get angry, we are not supposed to say anything bad,” he said. “But that’s not only for this month, but for every day of our lives. In Ramadan we are more careful in guarding our tongues, not to say anything inappropriate. We come here during the month of Ramadan more often. Last night we left at about 11:20 p.m. when we finished final prayers and we were supposed to get in here about 5 a.m. for the morning prayer. But God has a plan.”

The mosque, located at 1302 S. Black Cat Road, serves about 50 families in the area.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Omar Ahmed, 15, who came to the scene around 5 a.m. “It’s a house of worship. It’s a place of God.”

Some people like to stay the night at the mosque during Ramadan, Ahmed said, but no one was in the building at the time of the fire.

“The whole thing was on fire,” Ahmed said. “As soon as we turned on 32nd Street and Black Cat Road, you could just see the pillars (of smoke).”

This is the month of Ramadan, which ends on Aug. 18, where Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. At the end of the month, they will celebrate Eid-ul-fitr.

“It’s basically our Christmas,” Ahmed said.

On the morning of July 4, a man attempted to set the mosque on fire. The man was not identified, but his image was caught on surveillance cameras. There is still a $15,000 reward for information leading to charges from the FBI.

Carl Junction Fire Chief Bill Dunn said Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents were on the scene and he believed the FBI would investigate the fire.

“It was really burning when we got here,” Dunn said. “The fire got inside and broke through the roof.”

Dunn said an accelerant could have helped build up the fire’s strength. He said the fire is suspicious and is under investigation, but they cannot yet prove it was arson. They retrieved a surveillance video box and it will be sent to the FBI. It received fire damaged, he said.