The Council on American-Islamic Relations will hand out one of its top awards to the Islamic Society of Joplin on Saturday at its annual conference.
CAIR, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, will present its 2012 Courage Award to the Joplin mosque. Lahmuddin, the imam of the mosque, will travel to the conference in Arlington, Va., to receive the award.
The Joplin mosque was destroyed in a suspicious fire on Aug. 6. No cause has been determined, and there have been no arrests. It followed an arson fire on July 4. In that incident, surveillance video shows a man wearing dark clothes, including a long-sleeved shirt, throwing a burning package on the roof of the building. The July 4 fire caused minor exterior damage.
“We just view it as an expression of support for the Muslims and the faith communities in Joplin,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR national communications director, said of the Courage Award. “We want to show we respected their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.”
Lahmuddin said he will accept the award on behalf of the members of the Joplin mosque.
“It’s for the understanding and the courage to practice Islam, and for how we responded to what happened to us,” he said about how he sees the award.
He said local Muslims also will use the award as a source of inspiration.
“It’s more a challenge than an accomplishment,” Lahmuddin said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We want to continue to practice Islam, be peaceful and benefit others.”
He said no decision has been made about a location to rebuild the mosque.
The local Muslims have a temporary location for prayers in the Pavilions West Shopping Center at 32nd Street and McClelland Boulevard.
Another top award, the 2012 Solidarity Award, will go to the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., where a white supremacist went on a shooting spree, killing six worshippers. The shooter also died, shooting himself. The incident happened Aug. 5, the day before the Joplin mosque fire.
“The Sikh and the Muslim communities have become quite close,” Hooper said. “Sikhs are often attacked based on the mistaken belief that they are Muslims.”
CAIR provided testimony last week before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights in a hearing on hate crimes and domestic extremism. CAIR reported that in the 13 days during Ramadan, Aug. 6-18, there were eight incidents against Muslim places of worship, compared with 10 incidents in the first seven months of the year.
A report issued before the hearing said examples of Islamophobia were clearly on display during the period examined. That included statements by opponents of a new mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. It also included a statement by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., saying that he was seeking godly men and women in Congress “to stand in the face of the danger of Islam.”
The report also cited an August meeting between Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, who has said that there should be no mosques in America and that Islam shouldn’t be protected by the First Amendment.
“No one should have to live in fear of being harassed, shot, bombed, injured or killed simply because of their faith, race or ethnicity,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR Chicago, said in the introduction of the report. “Not here, not now, not after all this country has been through in the civil rights movement.”
The report also condemned the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin; the shooting of a guard at the Washington, D.C., office of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian organization; and vandalism at an Arab Christian church in Michigan.
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last week increased to $50,000 the reward for information leading a conviction in the July 4 fire at the Joplin mosque. CAIR separately has offered a $10,000 reward for a conviction in either the July 4 or Aug. 6 fires.
“The increased reward has generated new interest in the community,” said Bob Stuart, chief counsel for the FBI’s Kansas City division. “We’re prioritizing the leads that come in and pursuing them.”
THE FBI SAYS people may call the bureau’s Joplin field office at 417-206-5700 with tips or information about the mosque fires. Surveillance video, enhanced photos and news releases are online at fbi.gov/kansascity.