An Islamic center in the US state of Florida has been set on fire in an arson attack, marking yet another hate crime against America’s Muslim community.
The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County went up in flames on Monday, as worshipers were preparing to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The severe blaze left a massive 3m-by-3m (10ft-by-10ft) hole in the roof of the mosque’s main room.
Police classified the incident as an arson attack and said they were looking for “a white or Hispanic male” as their main suspect.
“Surveillance footage from cameras on the building revealed that arrived on motorcycle at approximately 11:38 pm,” the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “In the video, it appears he is carrying paper and a bottle of some type of liquid. The male approaches the northeast side of the building and a flash is seen, presumably when the fire ignited. The male is then seen running from the building.”
The incident drew concern and condemnation from American Muslims and law enforcement alike.
“A fire at any place of worship is alarming, regardless of the circumstances,” the Sherriff’s office said. “This is a horrible tragedy; not only for the Islamic Center, but for our community.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said such actions only terrorize Muslim communities across the US.
The arsonist “is terrorizing our community because we don’t know where he is at and we don’t know what he is capable of doing”, said Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, a Florida spokesman for CAIR.
“For this to happen to us on the morning of our biggest celebration of the year has made everyone saddened and scared, but our community is bigger than a building,” Mr. Amr Ruiz said. “We are stronger than that.”
Coincidence with 9/11
The Fort Pierce attack’s coincidence with the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks has prompted the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation, looking for possible ties.
Additionally, media reports alleged that the mosque was once attended by Omar Mateen, a Daesh sympathizer who committed the worst mass shooting in America’s recent history, when he opened fire in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June, killing nearly 50 people.
The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, however, is no stranger to hate attacks as a few weeks after the Pulse shooting, a Muslim man was badly beaten outside the mosque.
According to CAIR, passersby and motorists also frequently stop at the mosque and shout abuse at worshipers.