(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/9/04) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on federal authorities to help rule out the possibility that fires this week at mosques in Massachusetts and Arizona were anti-Muslim hate crimes. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says that Muslim communities in Arizona and Massachusetts need to be reassured that they are not being targeted.
A fire last night heavily damaged the Al-Baqi Islamic Center in Springfield, Mass. Arson investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but did say that the blaze was not sparked by electrical problems.
SEE: “Mosque Burns; Cause Probed”
Yesterday, CAIR’s Arizona office held a news conference to call for an FBI investigation of a fire that destroyed a Phoenix-area mosque. The blaze broke out early Tuesday morning in the Al Sadiq Mosque in Glendale, Ariz. After initially saying the fire was of “suspicious origins,” local investigators now say the cause is “undetermined.”
SEE: “Muslims Seek FBI Aid in Fire Investigation”
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar wrote: “Given the recent pattern of incidents targeting Islamic institutions in the United States, and the Muslim community’s concerns about the rising tide of Islamophobic rhetoric in our society, I would respectfully request that the Department of Justice
assist in ruling out the possibility that these most recent incidents were bias-motivated hate crimes.”
Iftikhar also noted that in late November, CAIR called on the FBI to assist in the investigation of a fire at a Virginia gas station that may have been motivated by anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias. Racist graffiti such as “F*** Arab go home” was left in the vicinity of the Sikh-owned station. (Since the 9/11 terror attacks, a number of Sikh men who wear turbans have been targeted because they were mistaken for Muslims.)
Other incidents targeting American Islamic institutions have taken place recently nationwide. In Fargo, N.D., vandals smeared feces on a mosque. In the neighboring state of Minnesota, two Islamic centers were also vandalized.
In Texas, firebombs were thrown at an El Paso mosque. Also in Texas, a man was arrested for threatening an El Paso Islamic center, an arson suspect was arrested at the scene of a fire at a Muslim business in San Antonio and vandals scrawled racist graffiti on the interior of a Lubbock mosque. A home-made bomb exploded in the mailbox of a Houston Islamic center.
In Washington, D.C., a Muslim prayer area at American University was vandalized. Earlier this year in Florida, vandals wrote “Kill all Muslims” inside the Islamic Community Center in the Tampa suburb of Lutz. The FBI is
also investigating vandalism and threatening messages targeting the Islamic Community of Southwest Florida in Charlotte Harbor. In Missouri, vandals painted a Nazi swastika and the word “die” on an addition under construction at the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis. Three Miami Islamic centers were vandalized.
In August of last year, investigators determined that a blaze at the
Islamic Center of Savannah in Savannah, Ga., was an act of arson. In 2003,
a Florida man was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for
plotting to attack some 50 Islamic institutions in that state. Similar
incidents have occurred in a number of other states, particularly since the
9/11 terror attacks.
As early as 1994, a nearly completed mosque in Yuba City, Calif., burned to
the ground in what was ruled an arson attack. In 1995, arson destroyed a
Springfield, Ill., Islamic center. In 1996, a suspect was charged for
involvement in an arson attack on a Greenville, S.C., mosque. In 1999, an
arson attack severely damaged a Minneapolis, Minn., mosque. Also in 1999, a
would-be terrorist was arrested after fleeing from the area of a mosque
near Denver, Colo. The suspect’s car was found to contain loaded weapons
and bomb-making materials.
As a response to post-9/11 anti-Muslim incidents, CAIR published a “Muslim
Community Safety Kit.” The safety kit may be obtained free of charge by
e-mailing email@example.com. (Include name, address and phone number when
requesting the safety kit.)
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, is headquartered in
Washington, D.C., and has 29 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.
Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue,
protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions
that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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