October 4th, 2012
09:42 PM ET
By David Ariosto, CNN
(CNN) – Authorities transported a man suspected of igniting a blaze in a suburban Toledo mosque back to Ohio, after he is believed to have traveled to Indiana following the attack - the latest in a series of actions eliciting fear in Muslim communities.
Randolph T. Linn was arrested Tuesday in the northern Indiana city of Fort Wayne, less than 15 miles west of the Ohio border, after he allegedly set fire to the mosque's second-floor prayer room, police said Thursday.
Linn faces felony charges of aggravated arson, burglary and having a concealed weapon, and was being held on $400,000 bond in Ohio's Wood County jail, authorities said.
The blaze began Sunday and triggered a sprinkler system that prevented the inferno from spreading in the landmark Islamic center, which spans more than 60,000 square feet and is considered among the nation's oldest and largest mosques.
Police said no one was present in the building at the time of the fire, although security cameras captured footage of a man whom authorities believe is Linn just prior to the incident.
"Over the years, there has been other suspicious activity at the Islamic Center," police said in a statement, including a letter with the word "stopped" written crudely in Arabic adjacent to a grease stain in the form of a smiley face.
"In view of all the mosque attack incidents in the country, we had stepped up security for the month of Ramadan," said Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center. "I could never have imagined this would have at the Islamic Center. The damage is so severe it involves all rooms."
It is not clear whether Linn - who could not be immediately reached for comment - was responsible for prior acts, police said.
"It's definitely not unique," said Nadhira Al-Khalili, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "People are engaging in what they believe is justice. But it's vigilante justice. And it's hurting everyone."
In August, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, was burned to the ground, just over a month after another attempted arson at the Islamic center, officials said.
Vandals sprayed an Oklahoma mosque with paintballs in that same month, while pigs legs were tossed against a California mosque, and a firebomb was hurled at a Muslim family's home in Panama City, Florida, according to CAIR.
Also in August, a gunman stormed a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people and wounding four others, though suspicion later surfaced that the man may have intended to kill Muslims, not Sikhs, who are occasionally mistaken for Muslims.
In January, the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Queens, New York, was hit by Molotov cocktails, as well as a Hindu temple and a corner store with Muslim workers.
"The number of anti-Muslim groups tripled in 2011, jumping from 10 groups in 2010 to 30 last year," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. "That rapid growth in Islamophobia, marked by the vilification of Muslims by opportunistic politicians and anti-Muslim activists, began in August 2010, when controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan reached a fever pitch."
The battle over a planned mosque near ground zero evolved into a broader debate about freedom of religion in New York, erupting in a controversy that spilled out on to talk radio as well as national news outlets.
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