On Saturday morning, the sheriff’s department and fire crews from the area responded multiple fires in Yermo, one at the Beanery, an old Union Pacific building, and one on property owned by Ali Mohammed. The fire destroyed buildings, one of which the local Muslim community used as a mosque.

“I don’t know if it’s a hate crime or not,” Mohammed said. “I hope it’s not a hate crime.”

The fire on Mohammed’s property destroyed three buildings, a two-bedroom unit, a fourbedroom unit and a garage. The garage served as a temporary mosque until renovations finished on one of the other units, Mohammed said. During holidays, Mohammed said 150 to 200 people would come to the mosque to worship. Worshipers prayed at the mosque on Friday evening, he said, the day before the fire destroyed it.

Deputies arrested two men in connection with the fires. Loren Jesse Clark, 18, of Yermo, was arraigned on Tuesday on two counts of felony arson. He pleaded not guilty to both counts. The sheriff’s department has identified the other suspect as a 16-year-old male. He was cited for arson and released to his mother, according to the sheriff’s report. His name was not released. . .

Munira Syeda, the communications coordinator for the Southern California Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, previously lived in the High Desert and worked as a reporter for the Desert Dispatch. She described the Barstow and Yermo communities as communities welcoming of people from everywhere. This incident does not reflect the broader community, she said.

“We hope that this is just a case of random arson and it’s not a targeted case of arson,” Syeda said. “Our response as a community at large should be to continue to show unity and to completely reject those elements who try to spread discord by inciting bigotry and Islamophobia.”

Syeda cited a recent Gallop poll that reported that 39 percent of respondents held some prejudice against Muslims, and the same percentage thought Muslims should carry identification cards to prevent further terrorists attacks in the United States. She added that 22 percent of the respondents would not want Muslims as neighbors.

She said looking at these statistics is a concern for Muslim-Americans. There are between 6 and 7 million Muslims in America, she said.

“To an extent, there is still prejudice out there against Muslims,” she said. “We hope that we can overcome that.”


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