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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. 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 support Muslims without knowing what each one stands for.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  2. 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 embracing Muslims without knowing what each one stands for.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  3. Preston

    how evil can these people be? do they think they r going good burning down a mosque? it just proves they have no morals and r intolerant bigots. the people who did that should be punished. they r just like the terriost. we r america we r land of the free. every one gets freedom not just a select few

    September 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  4. jerry

    the people that are burning these mosques i hope i spelled it right are just as bas as the people who drove the plaines into the trade centres at 911 there is no difference

    September 5, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  5. Brad

    Morons!!! All of you!!! Do any of you actually realize how hypocritical you all are. You post about being tolerant of peoples beliefs and then post again fighting and arguing with some other moron because you don't agree with the fact they don't agree with you. Ignorance burned the muslim center. The persons responsible are probably feeling patriotic with the anniversary of 9/11. Ignorance has blinded so many to see only bad when it comes to muslims as it has blinded muslims to christianity. There's an outpouring of bleeding hearts crying out for all the wrong America is doing we should just turn our blind eye towards illegal imigration and to how much all these people we try to help. CAN'T STAND the U.S.A. and if you don't like it here get the hell out! Go live somewhere that your only right is that you have no rights you bunch of pansies.

    September 4, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Kate

      @Brad

      People are angry about the things they can't control in life – keeping their jobs, their homes, no sign of recovery on the horizon. All of the little fears people have at times of instability and uncertainty mean they need something, or someone, to lash out at to feel as if they can regain some of that lost control.

      We're a proud species, feeling out of control is anathema. If it wasn't a black democrat President, it'd be something else. if there wasn't illegal immigration from drug-war torn Mexico, it'd be something else. if it wasn't Islamic extremists, it'd be something else.

      The problem is, there are people who want to tap into that anger and focus it for their own agendas – and that applies to everything. It's not about political party, it's not about religion – people have seen a vulnerability, they're exploiting it – not for "us", but for "them".

      Just one more loss of control 😦

      Just sayin'

      September 5, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • Dee

      Ther was no Mosque burned....it was construction equipment on a site for a Center....the Mosque is 10 miles away and still standing.

      September 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  6. chas

    Every sense I was little I have heard about hate from people in the world. 1st women had no rights. then salvery, different people coming to our country, now this. IF YOU WOULDN'T JUDGE PEOPLE. AND LEAVE IT TO GOD THE WHOLE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE

    September 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  7. Iqbal khan

    Please Educate yourself see and listen what Yvonne Ridley is saying....
    YouTube – ‪Yvonne Ridley‬‎
    20,594 views · Added 9/20/2007
    The journalist was kidnapped by the Taliban and eventually, after reading the Koran, she converted to Islam.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxJpTjBsqSo

    September 4, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • Steve

      Is that what they have to do for converts? Interesting. Stockholm syndrome anyone?

      September 5, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • Kate

      @Iqbal

      Steve's reply demonstrates why Ridley reverting is discounted by most – regardless of the injunction against compulsion in religion, given the way the Taliban operates, it's very easy to believe her reverting was coerced psychologically.

      Of course that doesn't apply when dealing with other reverts, but that particular case is always going to be considered invalid by observers – and it's impossible for man to prove otherwise.

      Just sayin'

      September 5, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  8. Ahmed Hashim

    Islam is not a wepon it is a gift from God for Humans to practice Peace and Loving each other. But Enemy is the Man

    September 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  9. Eurpean guy

    This thread/discussion is soooo funny, it really brings home that vision of the redneck/God-luvin' bumpkinness we have long suspected of our distant brethren. Luckily for the rest of the world the majority of US citizens are educated enough to realise they are being flooded by big-business-led propaganda such as Fox news and CNN who don't know the difference between Foot and Mouth disease and Mad Cow disease!
    Please, US citizens, help your fellow patriots realise that a world outside the good ol' you ess of aye exists.
    ha...ha...ha....oh....hum...........

    September 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  10. just cool

    after hardship comes ease
    My brother all this is the work of the JEWSH((( Sedition ))) 99.99 % OF THE COMMENTS YOU SEE ARE WRITEN BY THEM
    THEY ONLY WANT'S (((((Sedition)))).

    September 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • Steve

      Dude, take off the burqah and step away from the explosive vest.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:08 am |
    • Steven

      Dude, take off the burqah and step away from the splodey vest.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  11. Hanif Chauhan

    Sometimes people go to soooooooo extremes to prove they are idiots

    September 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  12. Hanif Chauhan

    Goes on to show what a few bigoted, misguided idiots can do to any community, race or religion

    September 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Sam

    It's like the start of the holocaust again. Koran burning, Mosque burning, mentally unstable fascists running the airwaves and organizing rallies telling people to turn to "God", defending racism, trying to normalize the N word again, overt Islamophobia, misrepresenting their beliefs with lies that are as outlandish as the Nazis used to dehumanize the Jews. Withholding "christian charity" from Pakistan. I guess when Christians promised the Jews "Never Again" they left their options open with regard to other races and faiths.I don't know. It's quite frightening.

    September 4, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • Mohamed

      Posted on I believe I heard the President say all ppoele would be on Medicare. Oh, dear, Medicare is not free. Thats why on page 59 of the bill they want your bank account # so they can automatically charge your account every month. Our insurance companies, utilities companies, etc. have our account number. Our bills get paid automatically and directly from the bank to the companies every month. The only bills we get are the credit card bills. I have no problem with these companies having our account #, but I dont trust the Federal Government with it. Too many bureaucrats. The only Fed agency that has our # is Social Security so we can have direct deposit. So far, weve had no problems.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  14. pullmyfinger

    You wanna know where the money comes from? Time for ALL churches to lose their tax exempt status.....Churches wanna play politics but don't wanna Pay to Play....Time to ante – in and let the IRS know all the particulars....

    September 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  15. junius

    people, stop bickering. Let's find out who did this and hang the turd.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  16. Farrarrotp

    Certain American folks were expert in blazing church. Christian churches I meant. Now there you are taking on mosques....
    What a country you have. God Save America!

    September 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  17. Andy Dufrane

    I would not doubt it if the Muslims set the fire themselves. We have already seen this with the Tea Party as liberals infiltrate protest and events carrying racist signs, then they have been spotted on video at the rally of the Democrat opponent wearing normal clothes. We have seen this during the elections of Obama and other Democrats. Liberal agents threw bricks through campaign headquarter windows to make it look like "hate crimes" by the right and Republicans. So...I would not doubt for a second that the Muslims set the fire themselves to gain sympathy.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  18. jungles

    as an Australian i see the American christian extremists as equally dangerous as muslim fanatics... all lunatic nutjobs.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • anti frogist

      When's the last time an American Christian came to your country and blew somthing up? May you should shut up and stay "down under" ... mate.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  19. A Real American

    ObamaOsama: "Lefties... none so blind as those who refuse to see."

    -----–

    Are you kidding? Anyone, lefties included, can see your bigotry from Sarah "Socialism is evil" Palin's taxpayer-funded house.

    Now shut up with the nonsense and go get a Palin daughter pregnant.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  20. anti frogist

    that's a shame about their construction project and those responsible should be prosecuted to the extent the law allows. however, the remarks of the 3rd place replublican are unrelated to this incident and should serve as an indicator of the publishers underlying motive. a bad thing happened and this is some really bad reporting.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
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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.