JOPLIN, Missouri – A second arson attack on a mosque in the mid-western US state of Missouri is sparking a storm of outrage among religious leaders, amid calls for protection for worship places.
“This incident should not stop us from worshiping our God,” a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin told CNN affiliate KYTV on Monday, August 6.
“We are going to find a place probably to continue our service to God.”
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The mosque in southeast Missouri was burned to the ground early Monday in the second arson attack on the Muslim worship place in a month.
The mosque’s roof was previously destroyed in a similar arson attack on July 4.
No injuries were reported in Monday’s attack, but the building of the Islamic Society of Joplin was a total loss after the blaze.
Immediate investigations were launched by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Jasper County Sheriff's department.
Searching for evidence of arson, officials found only charred remains that indicated that a building had been there.
The FBI was offering a combined reward of $15,000 for information leading to the suspected arsonist.
Another $10,000 reward for information on the latest incident was offered by the umbrella Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
It has also called for increased police protection at all houses of worship after the fire and Sunday’s deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said many hate groups, including Act for America, Stop Islamization of America and Jihad Watch, are fueling incidents like those in Joplin.
“It goes hand-in-hand with a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign to demonize Muslims in America,” Hooper said.
“This hate will inevitably have consequences.”
All across the US, mosques have been facing fierce opposition recently.
At least 35 mosque projects — from Mississippi to Wisconsin — have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Even more, some mosques were vandalized including a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case.
Faith leaders were quick to condemn the arson attack and offered condolences to their fellow Muslims.
“This is a threat to a group of law-abiding citizens in our midst,” Paul Teverow, with the United Hebrew Congregation, told The Joplin Globe.
“The people of Joplin should share the same sense of outrage.”
Teverow expressed support for the Muslim community in their time of hardship, showing his outrage over the burning of the mosque.
“I just feel a lot sadder,” he said.
“This strikes very close to us,” he said. “They’re our extended family.”
Lahmuddin, the mosque’s imam, had invited members of local Christian churches and the United Hebrew Congregation last Saturday to share with Muslims a Ramadan iftar and information about their religions.
Jill Michel, pastor of South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who attended with other faiths representatives Saturday’s event at the Islamic Society of Joplin, offered condolences to the Muslim community.
“They’re our brothers and sisters,” she said.
“These are caring and compassionate people who are making a difference in our community. Their grief must be ours. It just has to be. That’s what our faith tells us.”
Michel said she was working to determine how to respond to the mosque arson.
“How can we stand with them?” Michel said. “That’s the question I will be exploring today.”
Richard Massa, a member of First Community Church, said he was “utterly dismayed.”
“We just think it’s a terrible blot on the community, and an example of deep prejudice and bigotry on the part of someone,” he said.
Rev. Frank Sierra, of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, said he was hoping to offer the church as a place for the Muslims to meet and worship.
“I’ll offer prayerful support of the community as I hope they’ll seek to rebuild,” he said.“And I’ll continue to both publicly and prayerfully seek to end this kind of hatred among people.”