August 29th, 2010
08:06 PM ET

Feds investigate fire at site of future Tennessee mosque

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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

soundoff (413 Responses)
  1. Frogist

    Whoever did that should be ashamed. You are torching sites reserved for places of worship and causing terror in your own community. Shame on you.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  2. Determined

    Dear arsonest & protesters,
    Islam is a peaceful religion made up of all other religions complete. Islam teaches us respect all religions. So in realty if you are denoucing Islam you have just denounced your own religion unless you have no religion than may god guide you into a religion. So a few bad apples dosen't make the whole tree bad, no matter what religion, coloer, race, sex you are. Loose the ignorance. If you get rid of this mosque in Tennessee. My promise to you as god is my whitness I will collect $20 from 2,000,000 Muslims and non Muslims and I will erect 10 mosques in Tennessee in it's place. Belive that!!!

    August 30, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  3. Kaddafi_Delenda_Est

    Was it terrorism (or just fascist political theatre) when pro-jihadi Leftists flung molotovs at peace officers at the San Francisco Chronicle building?

    Leftist Quislings are encourage to Enter the “Leftist-fascist Hall of Shame” and recall what hate “arson” really looks like.

    Own it, Quislings for Islamo-supremacism.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  4. Kaddafi_Delenda_Est

    This stunt was most likely a "false-flag" operation by pro-mosque Leftist provocateurs– and it will be abused as a pretext to justify Pelosi's calls to investigate the legitimate dissent of patriotic Americans.

    I've been waiting patiently all month for the ACLU to denounce the “chilling effect” on the 1st Amendment exerted by Pelosi's hamfisted attempt to intimidate the American citizenry and inhibit folks from freely expressing their dissent.
    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news /114773-pelosi-new-yorkers-should-decide-in-ginn ed-up-mosque-controversy

    But it’s still August, maybe they’re all still on vacation over at ACLU-HQ?

    I’m sure they’ll all be chiming in on Pelosi's "MCCARTHYISM!" any time now, you betcha.

    *crickets chirp*

    August 30, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  5. salayem

    Christianity is the cradle of hate and violence. Their god was killed, and they still celebrate that.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  6. fireybuddha

    This is the first I've heard mentioned of this, and I read the news online regularly. Why wasn't it more newsworthy right after it happened, given the unnecessary hullabaloo CNN's been giving the NYC Islamic Cultural Center. Too bad backwards, ignorant hillbillies think this is justified behavior. Idiots.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  7. Jim

    Not hard to figure out that this was a religious, bible belt, republican, hick with a third grade education hoodwinked into hatred and the beliefs of the republican/church preachers who promote the foreign government of Israels taking over of our government and media to use our soldiers and taxes to kill muslims. The sad thing is they think they are being American, yet they are too stupid to see who so obviously controls and manipulates our government at the expense of every American.

    August 30, 2010 at 7:38 am |
  8. Sybaris

    Yet more reasons why religion should be banned

    August 30, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  9. John

    Wonder if it was too close to Ground Zero...

    August 30, 2010 at 7:14 am |
  10. Marc

    Even if you disagree with building a mosque there, please speak out against this kind of act of violence. This has the potential to spiral out of control very fast if it's not handled now.

    Even the hate and ignorance I see on this board is downright frightening.

    August 30, 2010 at 7:02 am |
  11. Nancy

    I'm tired of the media always focusing on situations that make the south as a whole look backward. I'm from TN, and most people I know here are reasonable, logical human beings. There are always a few "bad apples" in every bunch...this is true anywhere and everywhere you go, even in the supposed "forward thinking" communities.

    August 30, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  12. Dorie

    I live in Tennessee and you would not believe the ingnorance that is alive and well here. I'm a transplant and it's difficult to assimilate after living most of my life in a more enlightened northern state. Most folk here have no problem leaning over to whisper to you that mexicans and blacks and anybody who is anything other than white and baptist are bad. Yikes.

    August 30, 2010 at 5:27 am |
  13. Sacmar

    If this is indeed a crime, it truly makes me sad. I grew up with a Muslim mother and sisters. We were always taught to be tolerant and respectful to others. Our motto was "To you be yours and to me be mine." I watched my one sister who is get teased and harassed. I have to admit, there were times I didn't understand her beliefs completely, but they were hers and I respected that.

    We are African-American. We were born here . Our ancestors were slaves. There were people who tried to make them feel as if they did not belong. This is not the America I believe the founding fathers wanted. We have become the country of intolerance and ignorance. It breaks my heart.

    August 30, 2010 at 5:22 am |
  14. damn yank

    america has been the only super power for about 20 some years...
    is the world REALLY a better place? wars around the world, global recession, growing racism, growing religious intolerance.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:58 am |
  15. damn yank

    americans are so violent....

    August 30, 2010 at 4:54 am |
  16. Brenda

    People are assuming this is a "crime against the religion" and CNN (with its uber-liberal reporters) are going along with it. How do we know it wasn't just a bunch of drunk kids?? How do we know it was because it was a "muslim mosque site"?? We have no idea because we haven't caught the individuals responsible. Of course everyone is JUST SPECULATING BECAUSE WE DO NOT KNOW and CNN is happy to report on the poor little muslim woman who is telling us the chiildren are so upset.......which of course fits with CNN's theory that America is Evil. This is GARBAGE REPORTING.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  17. Tired of the Politics

    This is tragic, as are the remarks of the Governor. I'm appalled that there is such a lack of general education and civility in our society, whether the target be a mosque, synagogue, church, etc. However, this is particularly tragic given all of the right wing propaganda being spewed by the conservative right in regards to the Park 51 mosque – apparently all the trash talk is taking affect and people are starting to fear muslims. wish our education system did a better job so folks would see this is all about VOTES and the mid-term elections. its easy to gather republican votes by striking fear into people's hearts. its tragic that the result is increased intolerance and even violence towards muslims. to me, its shows me how irresponsible the republican party is and how it truly lacks leadership that it is willing to delve to such tactics. at least when bush was president, the republicans had a leader who kept emphasizing to folks that it was terrorists who were the problem, not muslims. and now the republican party has got people so worried and fearful that they are burning down mosques. sheesh. i gurantee this whole issue of park 51, of mosques in general, will die down from the ridiculously overblown levels of discussion by the republicans and coverage by fox news etc. after the november elections. lets just hope the hate that is brewing dies down with it.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:32 am |
  18. Lizy

    It is very interesting that the Muslim society is talking about religious tolerance when they do not offer it to others. I was born in Iran and lived there for 14 years!! I am so glad I am out of there and safe in the U.S. As for all people that think a mosque (masjed) is only a right of the Muslim people I am so disappointed at you. First I will start with NY, you should remember that it wasnt long ago when terrorists killed many innocent people. That means many people lost their wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother should I go on?

    As for the religion,
    Mohamad who called himself a prophet did not do anything other than rape girls (He married a 8 year old girl) and kill people if they did not follow Islam. That is their Prophet do you still think this is a peaceful religion? Mulahs (religious leaders) in Iran tell people that Killing Christians will take a Muslim person to heaven were he will be greeted by 50 virgins. In Iran Christian people are discriminated against everyday, sometimes even killed by the Islamic government because of what their religion is. Christian people can not built churches, and if they change someone religion (even if that individuals wants to become Christian) they will be killed. Actually a priest was killed, cut in little peaces in his own house just because he was asked to baptize few Muslim.
    If you even search countries history that are Muslim you would see how blood shed is contaminating their past. They call Christian najes (unclean) and would not even touch us. Still believe Islam is Peaceful?
    I dont know about you but I would not be so easy about all these masjed spreading everywhere like Mushroom in the U.S.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:20 am |
  19. Lee Oates

    The ugly underbelly of America is resurfacing. The KKK, Neo-Nazis and right-wing factions are having a field-day stampeding Americans into a period of hate and violence. Who is at fault? All Americans for allowing it, either by promoting it directly, or giving consent by their silence. What are we teaching our children?

    August 30, 2010 at 3:47 am |
  20. gladyola

    Ron Ramsey is disturbing. So glad our personal spaces will never intersect.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:31 am |
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About this blog

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.