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September 3rd, 2010
06:45 PM ET

Tennessee mosque site fire an arson, feds say

A fire last weekend at the construction site of a future mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been determined to be arson, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman said Friday.

Lab reports indicate that accelerants were used to start and spread the fire, which destroyed an earth mover and damaged three other vehicles at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, ATF spokesman Eric Kehn said.

There are no suspects in the arson, which occurred early Saturday morning, Kehn said. The investigation is ongoing and the ATF and FBI are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect or suspects, authorities said at a Friday press conference at the construction site.

"Somebody here in Rutherford County knows what happened here," said Keith Moses, an FBI assistant special agent based in Nashville, at the press conference, which featured representatives from the Islamic center.

"Whether or not we have a civil rights hate crime will be determined once we have a suspect or suspects and a motive," Moses said.

The FBI, ATF, and Rutherford County Sheriff's Office are conducting an ongoing investigation. Federal authorities and members of the Islamic center had suspected that the fire was intentionally set.

"We were expecting to hear it but in the back of our minds we were hoping for the best, that it was some kind of electrical fire," Camie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the Islamic center, told CNN on Friday. "It ingrained into our heads that this is definitely arson and that somebody did intentionally go out and do this."

The Islamic center's board has decided to hire private security for the site, Ayash said, after the contractor for the project suggested it. She expects a private security firm to start monitoring the site after hours beginning next week.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office has stepped up patrols of the site since the fire, driving by about every 30 minutes, she said.

The blaze has "really raised the fear factor" among area Muslims, Ayash told CNN earlier this week.

"We see the different type of fear with our children," she told CNN's "American Morning."

"It is very hard to explain to children what is going on. It is hard to explain to the little kids when they ask you, 'Mommy, are these people for us or against us?' "

A candlelight vigil, organized by Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom in response to the fire, drew about 100 people to the Rutherford County Courthouse on Monday night.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed in the Murfreesboro area for more than 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 last month.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim • Tennessee • United States

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    March 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  5. Carl

    ISLAM MUST BE REFORMED OR WE HAVE TO REMOVE ITS RELIGION STATUS. READ BOOKS THAT ARE "OUTLAWED" IN EVERY MUSLIM COUNTRY WRITTEN BY "MUSLIMS":
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    September 6, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  6. Joseph Gordon

    I am ashamed of the actions of my fellow americans the only differance between this and how Africans Americans was treated in the past is that There Muslims. Yea you can say muslims was behind the act of 9/11 we can also say Christianity was the cause of Jim Jones and David Karisch.... so we shouldn't have churches built because it might be training future jim jones. This country is founded on certain principle's like Freedom of Religion. but then again All men are created equal is still being perfected... so lets be all God fearing not Fearing of man. which im just trying to say to Fellow Christians Do what Jesus will do. We All are Brothers love and treat each other Good. that was the last command Jesus gave to us... and one thing i knwo when was Jesus ever wrong in the bible.... Just a thought From a Christian to all my Brothers and Sisters of all God Fearing Religions.

    March 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
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      May 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  7. gremlin

    we can start in new york!

    November 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  8. gremlin

    burn 'en all down! we're americans! we can handle it...

    November 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  9. AGA

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQdGBu4biWU&w=640&h=390]

    September 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • IronMonger

      "Why do they hate/fear us?"

      In the following verse, Muhammad uses the Arabic word qital (root is q-t-l), which means warring, fighting, or killing:

      9:29 Fight [q-t-l] those among the people of the Book [Christians] who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden and do not profess the true religion, till they pay the poll-tax out of hand and submissively. (Fakhry)

      The two most interesting clauses in this violent verse are (1) People of the Book (Christians in this verse late in Muhammad’s life) are to be attacked if they do not profess the true religion: Islam. This leaves the door wide open for terrorists today to attack and fight Christians because they do not adhere to Islam; (2) Christians must pay a tax for the "privilege" of living under the "protection" of Islam—submissively or in humiliation.

      April 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
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  10. Lovely

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    September 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  11. Americano

    NO BIGOTRY....

    Watch Anglican bishop convert to Islam

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    September 5, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • IronMonger

      Claim lacks source. Cannot find any mention of this "bishop" outside of the hearsay of this particular propogandist. Buried.

      Besides, who cares what person X or person Y does? The difference between one of us converting to Islam and one of yours converting to something else is we don't go out and kill that person after they act out of their own conscience.

      April 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  12. yoyoma

    do you guys have anything better to do

    September 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  13. jp in Texas

    Wow our nation is becoming a nation of paranoid bigots...way to go my bro. is fighting for democracy in Afghanistan which includes Religious freedoms and we have idiots setting Mosques on fire…what a mockery of our nation’s PRINCIPLES.

    September 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  14. jp in Texas

    Wow our nation is becoming a nation of paranoid bigots...way to go my bro. is fighting for democracy in Afghanistan which includes Religious freedoms and we have idiots setting Mosques on fire…what a mockery of our nation’s principals.

    September 5, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
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    September 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  17. Dani

    Im with Regina I know exactly how she feels loosing a relative like that. My uncle was killed in 9/11 and my cousin killed by a gang last week, and I was molested by an illegal alien as a child. Kiss my ass if I don't love muslims- I don't like American punks who join 'gangs' and kill people or people who come to the country illegally to do harm to others either. I don't like anybody until I know what each person believes and stands for. I don't care what religion you practice, what race you are, or country you are from- you do harm to anyone people retaliate because it affects not just you anymore.

    September 5, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Dani

    Im with Regina I know exactly how she feels loosing a relative like that. My uncle was killed in 9/11 and my cousin killed by a gang last week. Kiss my ass if I don't love muslims- I don't like American punks who join 'gangs' and kill people either. I don't like anybody until I know what each person believes and stands for. I don't care what religion you practice, what race you are, or country you are from- you do harm to anyone people retaliate because it affects not just you anymore.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  19. Dani

    I'm with Regina. My uncle was killed in the 9-11 attacks and they consider themself Muslims, so kiss my ass for not acceping Muslims until I know what each one of them stand for.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    • Akhtab

      There were those who called themselves Christians who committed genocide on Native Americans killing them by the millions. They were the first residents of this land. There were millions of Africans murdered and enslaved by those calling themselves Christians. The authors of Apartheid were Christians. Those who oppressed the world with Colonialism called themselves Christians. Karl Marx convince Christian Russians that religion was the opium of the people and they threw their Bibles into the garbage for Communism, Germany was under the church and allowed a nut to moved them inot Nazism. The Ku Klux Klan hung over 5000 black men to trees. They bombed schools, businesses and houses of worship of the same people while claiming to be Christians. I can go on and on mentioning the evils such as pedophile priests, drug addicts, youth gangs etc. Do these folks represent true Christians? Hell no. So why do fools hold 1,670,000,000 accountable for the actions of a few?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:55 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.