With yellow crime scene tape still wrapped around the burned shell of a Muslim family’s home in Sarasota, representatives from the state fire marshal’s office and the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonists.

Hasib Sejfovic and his family returned from their vacation two weeks ago to discover their home in the 5300 block of Avila Avenue, just south of University Parkway, had been torched and spray-painted with anti-Muslim graffiti July 6.

Detectives with the state fire marshal’s office have determined that the fire was the result of arson, said Samuel Venzeio, a crime intelligence analyst with the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations in Tampa.

“Anybody that was in the area or anybody in this community that has seen anything or heard any rumors, we encourage them to come forward,” said Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Tampa. His organization committed $7,500 to the reward money, while the other $2,500 is being offered by the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention.

“We want to send a very strong message to the public that acts of arson, acts of violence and acts of hate crimes will not be tolerated,” Bedier said. “I got the chance to tour the house inside and outside last week, and one of the messages said, ‘Kill all Arabs.’ So, obviously, the writing was on the wall as far as the hateful nature of this act.”

The Sejfovics are not Arab. They are originally from Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia.


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