Muslim leaders gathered today at an Antioch mosque that they said had been vandalized several times to condemn what authorities called an arson attack over the weekend.
The blaze early Sunday caused an estimated $200,000 in damage to the Islamic Center of the East Bay and left the one-story structure on West 18th Street uninhabitable. Six engines responded to the one-alarm blaze, which was reported around 12:30 a.m. Sunday and was out within half an hour, said Contra Costa County Fire District spokeswoman Emily Hopkins.
Hopkins said arson investigators have some promising leads, but said there was no evidence the fire had been set because the building was a mosque.
"Of course, it's still under investigation," she said. "We don't rule that out, but at this point we don't see any evidence (of a hate crime)."
One Bay Area Muslim leader, however, called the fire "an act of terror against our community" and said vandals have targeted the building several times in recent months.
Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the mosque was broken into Friday evening and that its front windows were broken three times this year, including by a gunshot in January.
Ibrahim and Abdur Rahman, chairman of the mosque's board of trustees, said the mosque has also received threatening phone calls in recent months. They said they had reported the previous attacks to police but had not publicized them, hoping they were isolated incidents.
"Obviously there's been a pattern of attacks at this mosque," Ibrahim said. "We as a greater community should not be accepting this."