Muslims ‘Under Attack,’ Says Toledo Mosque Official After Arson
Muslims and their places of worship “are clearly under attack,” says the president of one of the country’s largest mosques, which was heavily damaged four days ago in an arson fire.
“We’re actually reeling in disbelief,” Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center of Toledo in Ohio, told Hatewatch today in describing the devastation caused by a fire deliberately set in the mosque’s prayer area on Sunday afternoon, just minutes after worshippers had left the building.
“This is a hate crime and it’s very significant it was started in the center of the prayer area, right under the dome,” said Islam. The mosque she heads is the third largest in the United States, a 70,000-square foot landmark, visible for miles, with 3,000 members who will celebrate the center’s 32nd anniversary on Friday.
The fire and water damage from sprinklers touched every room in the Islamic Center, causing an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million in damages. Repairs will take an estimated six months.
A suspect in the arson, whose image was captured on surveillance cameras, was arrested Tuesday in neighboring Indiana. On Wednesday, Randy T. Linn, a 52-year-old truck driver from St. Joe, Ind., was charged in Perrysburg, Ohio, Municipal Court with two counts of aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, and carrying a concealed weapon, the Toledo Blade reported in today’s editions.
“It was a very symbolic fire, we believe, in that it was started in the center of the prayer area right under the dome,” Islam said.
In August, during Ramadan, an anonymous, threatening letter was sent to the mosque with the word “stopped” written in Arabic.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we believe something like this would happen to us,” Islam said. “We are clearly under attack. If our mosque had not been made of brick and concrete, it would have burned to the ground.”
The fire also damaged and shut down classrooms of the Islamic School of Greater Toledo, a K-5 elementary school at the center. Those children are now attending classes at a nearby community college.