August 29th, 2010
08:06 PM ET
A fire at the future site of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is under investigation but "you can reasonably make the assumption" that it was arson, an FBI spokesman told CNN Sunday.
"The evidence is being analyzed to see what the origin of the fire was," Keith Moses, an assistant special agent with the FBI in Nashville, told CNN Sunday. "We have to follow the facts."
The fire, which struck early Saturday morning at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is under investigation by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.
The fire consumed an earth mover and damaged three other vehicles, according to Camie Ayash, a spokesperson for the mosque. Ayash said that the Mufreesboro Fire Department told her that the vehicles had been doused with an accelerant.
Accelerants are substances that help start or spread fires.
A call to the Mufreesboro Fire Department on Sunday evening was not answered.
"It really put fear into the community," Ayash said.
"Our children are heartbroken," she said. "When we broke ground a few weeks ago, they could see the new Islamic center as something that was tangible, something that was going to happen."
"Now someone had so much hatred to rip the joy out of their hearts," she said.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed in the Murfreesboro area for over a decade, according to its website, and currently meets about a mile from the site of the future mosque.
The congregation purchased a 15-acre plot in 2009 and announced plans for a center that will include a mosque, educational facilities, a gym, cemetery, and various recreational areas, including tracks, pavilions and a playground.
The project has provoked controversy in Murfreesboro, about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, and statewide.
In July, several hundred opponents of the mosque staged a march against the project. Some objected to Islam itself, carrying signs like "MOSQUE LEADERS SUPPORT KILLING CONVERTS," while others opposed the project for environmental reasons.
Last month, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey publicly criticized the project. "You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it," Ramsey, then a candidate for Tennessee governor, said at a rally.
Ramsey placed third in Tennessee's Republican primaries earlier this month.
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