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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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soundoff (561 Responses)
  1. Reality

    It is very likely that said planned mosque is being built by Sunnis and the arson was due to Shiites or vice versa. Happens every day around the globe with these two groups and their bloody centuries-old feud.

    September 4, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  2. NoGods.

    Why just burn the one mosque why not burn all the churches to the ground as well?

    September 4, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • towelhead

      good idea you fool

      September 4, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  3. Chris

    It's about damned time somebody burned a mosque! Would Muslims tolerate a Christian church in Tehran?

    September 4, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • CC

      You're absolutely right! Why should America be any more tolerant and accepting of other religions and races and recognize humanity any more than the people in those repressive countries!

      September 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  4. Pam Miller

    Tim McVeigh and his gang were Christians . Does this mean we should ban Christianity? Put the blame where it belongs, on those who actually committed the acts.

    September 4, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  5. Joe

    Great news makes my whole day better.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  6. John

    This was a criminal act and should be prosecuted under the law (when they find the offenders). It is wrong.
    Many Americans don't want the expansion of Islam in the US, we don't want more traditional/strict muslims expanding here and trying to force their laws, traditions, way of life and politics on us (which are inseparable from their religion). We have the right to set boundries and expectations now. As we've seen in Europe, too many muslim sects refuse to assimilate and where large groups of young strict muslims gather, there can be extremist recruiting. We should be investigating where funding from any mosque comes from because there are too many radical leaders to turn a blind eye. We must keep America safe first. I would also propose removing tax exemption status for all religious groups, Hebrew, Christian, Muslim, all.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • CC

      I would support this only, and if only, the same procedures were carried out for every single church that is going to be built, and every single temple that is going to stand. The idea that Americans that are born and raised here can't be terrorists is absurd, you get Christian extremists as well, which can lead to violence too, as history has very clearly taught us.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  7. Mike Wizowski

    Ignorant people are ignorant.

    So if I assume that one Christian drinks, SHOULD I assume that ALL Christian drinks?!

    So a couple of terrorists whom are obviously brain-washed, went out and planned a trip to the twin towers.

    so I GUESS this means that ALL terrorists are MUSLIMS and there are NO such thing as a Christian terrorist, or Hindu etc.

    You guys should realize that after 9/11, almost the entire muslim population tried to win your hearts by sending aid and love.

    There is another thing you guys should realize, is the "Central Bank" and all those whom are in a "secret service" with the non other former president Bush, and current president Obama.

    All the promises that Obama have made so far was total crap, and is following the same lead as Bush previously.

    Obama is a good liar, but a better actor.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • sensible

      Obama, I think, has kept his promise.In the campaign he said he will get health care to Americans and the Bill was passed. a promise kept. He said he will end the war in Iraq and bring back the troops. He did. He ended combat operation, end of battle- a promise kept. He said it is not Iraq but afghanisthan where al qaida is and that is a justifiable war to go out and finish Al qaida- a promise kept. He said he will bring order to financial thughs and he did bring regulation- a promise kept. Even though he is in office close to a year and half, he has done exemlpary work and much more to come. God bless our President. Amin!!

      September 4, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  8. SomeoneElse

    I think all places of worship should be closed down and the few that are beautiful (like cathedrals) used for tourism. But just to put things in perspective, down south they are still looking for people who are burning churches down on a rather regular basis and that doesn't get too much press...

    September 4, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  9. Chris

    Show me a mosque where respect and tolerance towards non muslims is taught. After that, show me a mosque that does not teach hate against jews. What? No such place?

    September 4, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • CC

      Wow, you must have really gone to great lengths to come to this conclusion! I mean, really, all the thousands upon thousands of interviews you had to of done, all the mosques you must have visited, all the traveling and expenses you must have had to deal with, and even having to get to know every single Muslim in America well enough to have a very clear and deep understanding of these people, their practices, their very detailed personal beliefs, and how each of them interpret the text and follow through with their own meaning. I mean, damn, you really work hard to come to these seemingly wild accusations!

      September 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  10. Peter

    Al-Quaeda does not represent most Muslims any more than the Wesboro Baptist Church of the KKK (with their flaming crosses) represent most Christians.

    As much as I am a proud American, it is a fact that we can be a superficial and suspicious bunch, especially when it comes to cultures and religions which are not WASP. Just ask the Catholics in the late 1800s, when the US government wanted to ration the amount of Catholics in the country, since they were afraid that the Pope would end up running the USA.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  11. Just asking questions

    Lets face it, if muslims perpetrated the relatively small blaze , wouldn't the sympathetic response from the left and the naive be overwhelming, and predictable?

    September 4, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  12. ObamaOsama

    Love it when a terrorist organization (Islam) veils itself in religion. Better yet when their future victims (brain-dead lefties) defend them! What a coup! You guys are awesome. Cannot wait to watch this play out. Pass the popcorn and kool-aid.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:29 am |
    • CC

      There are no words for this level of ignorance. I'm not even going to try and come up with a witty comeback, I think your comment speaks for itself. GL on ever being taken seriously.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  13. ObamaOsama

    Love it when a terrorist organization (Islam) veils itself in religion. Better yet when their future victims (brain-dead lefties) defend them! What a coup! You guys are awesome. Cannot wait to watch this play out. Pass the popcorn and kool-aid.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Peter

      Why so inconsistent with your views? Then why, when the KKK burns crosses on lawns in the name of "Christianity" you don't call all Christians "terrorists"? There is a difference between Al-Quaeda and Islam, just as there is a difference between the KKK and Christianity at large. Look closer, please. And think.

      September 4, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  14. theboldcorsicanflame

    Just ask yourself why today nowhere do they mention what is in that article. One of the donor for the ground zero mosque has given money to a terrorist organization. He claims he didn't know....
    http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/local_news/manhattan/mosque-investors-donation-investigation-20100902

    September 4, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  15. yojimbo82

    The faster every last religious institution on the planet is burned to the ground, the better off we will all be.

    It's still the same old story
    A bloody Holy War
    A fight for love and glory
    Ain't gonna study war no more
    A fight for God and country
    We're gonna set you free
    or bomb you back to the Stone Age
    If you won't be like me

    - John Lennon, "Serve Yourself"

    September 4, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  16. Common Sense

    For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  17. Randy

    On last Monday evening approximately 500 people met on the courthouse steps in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to rally for religious tolerance. A priest and a rabbi and a student from the local university and several other community members spoke. There are a large number of people in our area who see Muslims as our neighbors. We are for religious freedom and we are opposed to violence against our neighbors in any form.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  18. Tariq Bhatty

    People, what are we getting into?
    Stop this charade and respect all.... we are hurting American traditions....love,peace and respect

    September 4, 2010 at 8:51 am |
    • Yusuf

      Posted on Not to upset anyone, but, I'm ilkoong for a great plumbing service and I can't seem to find who is good and who is not do you have any idea this plumbing company? They're based out of Chapel Hill, close to my place I can't find reviews on them JD Plumbing Chapel Hill, 1289 N Fordham Blvd Ste 237, Chapel Hill NC 27514, (919) 636-3760

      March 4, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  19. Christian Arab-American

    Unfortunately, ignorance and arrogance are still both alive and well here in good ole' america. Arabs in this country have been here for than 100 years, yet they are going through the same kind of hate and intolorence as blacks did 50 years ago. I travel all over america on business trips and I see different cities and states and I amazed by how different people are depending on where they live. Unfortunately the majority of the american south is still uneducated and racist, and the south still hasn't modernized or civilized itself much since the civil war. The coastal cities are very friendly and educated (i.e. NY, DC, LA, SF, and Seattle). The interior of the country is a mixture of racist and ignorant people, but ironically there are a few interior cities with large arab populations like Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas.

    Bottom line is that america still has a long way to go when it comes to equality and civil rights for all.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:47 am |
    • MrsFizzy

      You see, anyone can over-generalize...

      September 4, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Beaujam90

    I thought that americans were open minded and tolerent. They are so ignorant about Islam. Why don't they try to learn about it before judging it wrongly?

    September 4, 2010 at 8:46 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.