Fire at Tenn. Mosque Site Ruled Arson

A fire that destroyed construction equipment being used to build a new mosque in Nashville, Tenn. has been ruled an arson by authorities who are investigating the case.

Officials reported that gasoline had been poured on several pieces of heavy equipment but only a large earth hauler was set on fire.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, ATF, and the local sheriff's department.

Leaders of the Islamic Center of Mufreesboro (ICM) who are developing the new site were contacted at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning by a passerby who had seen the fire.

"Everyone in our community no longer feels safe," Carmie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the ICM, told the Daily News Journal. "To set a fire that could have blown up equipment and, God forbid, spread and caused damage to the neighbors there ... we really feel like this is something that we and the neighbors don't deserve."

The fire comes following recent protests from hundreds of opponents of the new center who claim that Islam is a militant political ideology and not welcome in the city.

Earlier in the year, the sign announcing the new project was vandalized twice, one time being broken in half and the other time spray painted with a message that read "not welcome."

Last November, a Tennessee man was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for burning down the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tenn. Nazi swastikas and the phrase "White Power" were painted on the mosque's walls.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called yesterday for a hate crime investigation of the fire and also urged public officials and opinion leaders to address the issue of growing anti-Islam hate in American society.

"Public officials and other opinion leaders in our society must address the growing level of anti-Islam hate," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. "American Muslims should be reassured that their government will protect them from those who spread fear and use the tactics of intimidation."

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