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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. William Munny

    It was most likely set by some Islamic person to gain power by blaming Christians and the good people of the U.S.A., they have done it in other counties, the word martyr in Arabic, a martyr is termed "shahid" meaning lead to ones death for Allah.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • Von Duker

      So TRUE...

      September 3, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jason

      You are ridiculous. Do you have any idea how incredible ignorant you are? You try to be William Munny, but you're more like Little Bill.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  2. GodIsFake

    Ahhh...got to love the tolerance of the religious nuts.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • Von Duker

      Nuts are for food. The only man eating Religions are amongst certain tribes in Africa...

      September 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • 4thofJulybaby

      Your moniker makes one ponder what are you doing on the religion page?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
    • Dee

      Jesus said "Do onto others as you would have others do onto you" your statement shows how much tolerance you have for those that believe differently than you.....Where YOU by any chance in Murfreesboro at that time?! Because after all the Islamic RELIGION follows GOD

      September 4, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  3. Von Duker

    This unfortunate incident is made even worse in that it generates sympathy for the Muslim religion. The real victims of this wicked bondage called Islam are the devout practitioners of it and those they seek to inflict it upon, (which is, ultimately, everyone, if they have their way)... It is a sad fact that the vast majority of westerners are grossly ignorant of the sacred writings of Islam.
    Read the Koran and the Hadith, the Matn. The depictions are not a bunch of boys going to a camel race. Read... If you can.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  4. Keith

    Hi Eric, Left you a post RE: Hawking. As far as the arsonist(s), it could be the same jokers who were burning down all those churches.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • Keith

      Eric G. It was meant for Eric G, not Eric. Sorry..

      September 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  5. Alex

    Why are you all automatically blaming this on Christians? Coulda been atheists or just non-denominational annoyed Americans. Or maybe it was an opposing sect of Islam. They do love fighting after all.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
    • Harry Kuheim

      Radical Liberals love to incite hatred like this and then take a video of the reaction. It's a common tactic of Anarchists too.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • Margaret

      Alex, you're right. We don't know who did it and shouldn't assume it was Christians. Making assumptions about any population group makes matters worse.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    • WH0

      @Harry – So, according to your logic, the right-wing fascist extremists are polite, courteous, and peaceful huh? Typical lemming.....you keep following that carrot republicans dangle in front of your nose while you pull their cart jacka$$.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Jibril

      Shia muslims cannot stand such a large Sunni mosque being built – they must have done it

      September 4, 2010 at 12:26 am |
    • EducationPlease

      In most mosques in the US, Shia's and Sunni's share the mosque. My beliefs are more in line with those of the Sunni sect but I can say I have many Shia friends (not to mention Christians, Hindus, Jews, ect). Having been born and raised in the US as a muslim and having travelled around the world, including throughout the middle east for my work with a fortune 500 US company, I have seen Shia's and Sunni's pray in the same public mosques even in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Only in heavily segregated sections of these countries do you typically find Sunni-dominated and Shia-dominated mosques. Nice try...but not a well educated hypothesis.

      September 4, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  6. VeeZee

    so how do you guys know a Christian did this?

    September 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  7. AJ

    Everyday we have Rightwing haters who fan the flames of bigotry and violence against anyone different then them. Rush,Beck, Sarah and many other hate monger racists are destroying this country. Their lobotomised fllowers follow their every lead. I know this arson is the work of one of the hate mongers followers. And they claim to be "good" Christians and "patriotic" Americans. They're in reality "bad"" Christians and traitors to the "true" American way.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Eric

      Yes, what did you say ?

      September 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  8. Alex

    Thanks for representing the arsonists Eric.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Fred

      No, just sticking up for Christians and Rednecks. I know how everyone on these posts think they are better that everyone and wanted to stir up some s&it.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  9. Eric

    I see no tolerance of rednecks or Christians on this post.

    Just a bunch sudo intellectual hypocrites.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • Gilda

      "Sudo"? What's "sudo"?

      Some kind of dishwashing detergent?

      Or just something people use to whitewash acts of bigotry?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
    • WH0

      I lack tolerance for anyone who failed to educate themselves. Learn spelling and grammar m0r0n.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • Allen

      It's "pseudo" not sudo. This is exactly why people make fun of hillbillies, Eric. Just stop talking.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
    • Jason

      Eric buys "sudo"phed when he need to cook up a fresh batch of meth.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Fred

      I am with Eric

      September 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Eric

      Jason-

      I take that when I get colds.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Pseudo Intellectual

      It's spelled "Pseudo".

      Also, you're right. People should stop criticizing Christians. At least stop criticizing the ones who support Freedom of Religion, don't spew hate, and don't burn down Mosques.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • Rabid Rabbit

      "Sudo" is two-thirds of Sudoku. It's played on a 6×6 grid.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:50 am |
  10. MollyBee

    The acts of hate being carried out in the US right now are the direct result of right-wing leaders egging the crazies on with their hate-mongering campaigns. I hope they come to their senses.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • WH0

      Molly, that is probably the best point I've seen raised so far!!! You hit the nail squarely on the head with that one, kudos!!!!!! And anyone who tries to refute this:

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32605508/

      Don't speak, just go away before you make idiots of yourselves.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
    • Dee

      Racism is the prejudice or animosity against people of different races.
      Race is the population divided in to groups on the basis of physical characteristics such as skin or hair color
      Bigotry is an intolerent person with strong opinions, especially on politics, religion, who refuses to accept different views

      Muslims are followers of Islam, a religion, and are of many skin colors, therefore the word you should be using is bigotry. An, if when the evidence comes in, it shows that this was indeed a crime against the faith then it is an act of bigotry....but before you judge others maybe you should look in the mirror and judge your own intolerance.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  11. Alex

    Sigh. It's all too depressing. We are supposed to be better than this.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
    • Kate

      @Alex

      Are you talking about the arson or Eric?

      Just wonderin'

      September 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  12. Eric

    Hey Surthurfurd-

    Are you from another planet ??

    September 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  13. Eric

    Shilela-

    Your a a delusional racist screamer.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  14. TFBuckFutter

    I would rather Muslims live in my neighborhood than rednecks.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
    • NYC

      I would rather they live in your neighberhood too

      September 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • TFBuckFutter

      At least you're comfortable with your racism. There really is always a silver lining.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • tcat

      Watch what you wish for...you just might get it.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
    • Eric

      Where is your neighborhood so we can ship them over there.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  15. Eric

    to all the racist chanters on this post

    you can suck it too !!!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
    • steve

      Islam is a religion not a race you idiot.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • Eric

      Then why all the racist chatter. Have you read the posts.

      I may be an idiot but your a bigger idiot.

      You really need to suck it !!!

      September 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • Ben

      Eric, I'm glad you admitted that you are an idiot. They say that's the first step on the road to recovery

      September 3, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  16. Eric

    To all you the greater than now people on this post who hate people from the south.

    You can suck it too!!!!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
    • Luke

      What is "greater than now people" ?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Kate

      @Eric

      Are you temporally prejudiced? You have an issue with the less than then, or the marginally better than before but not so good in the future?

      Just ... confused

      September 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • Colton

      i think he means "greater than thou"

      September 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @Kate

      LMAO!

      Just cacklin'
      . 😀

      September 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • Allen

      It's "greater than thou," dumb@$$

      September 3, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • Luke

      Sigh. It's holier than thou.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • Eric

      Your all worried about racism and discrimination while you are being hypocrites.

      What is all this jabber about bad Christians and Rednecks. Sounds like hate speech to me.

      And yes, YOU CAN ALL SUCK IT. YOUR ALL FULL OF SH&T !!!

      September 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
    • Jason

      I am greater than now, Eric. Wait, I just got even "greaterer" just now. Wait, I just even more "greaterer" just now. You are so smat, Eric. Ooops, I mean, you are so smart, Eric. Maybe you can teach me how to be smart, and then we can color with Crayons and make things with macaroni and glue! Careful, don't sniff the glue, you might not be "greater than now".

      September 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  17. Alex

    I sincerely hope the adults in the Republican Party step up and speak out against this madness. It would be nice if the Dems stop cowering and simply speak at all.

    I'm utterly unimpressed with the political leaders out there now.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  18. Sheila Macpherson

    As far as this white Atheist American is concerned, when someone sets fire to someone else's place of worship, those are as much my first amendment rights being stepped on as the person whose place is burned. And considering Atheists are THE minority of denominations in this country, I know what it is like to sit back and what someone hijack this nation's identity. Who the hell do they think they are bringing fear to these peoples' hearts over their religion? THAT is the epitome of scum.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  19. Eric

    One act of vandalism. Who cares.

    To all you Christian haters. Suck it

    September 3, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
    • 4thofJulybaby

      Amen!

      September 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
    • sam

      "Christian haters" = a Christian who hates. FYI

      September 3, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
    • Eric

      Sam-

      You can suck it big time.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Eric

      Sam-

      I got the FYI. Your a moron !!!

      September 3, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • Jason

      I think Eric has a full diaper.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
    • Ben

      One act of hate crime vandalism. Who cares?*
      Fixed and to answer your question, hopefully a lot of people

      September 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  20. Ryan

    This was the same center that was on The Daily Show not that long ago.

    September 3, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
    • Gilda

      Colbert had an interview with the spokeswoman of the Murfreesboro Muslim community on. He did a very good job of showing how much tunnel vision the screaming anti-center bigots have.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:32 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.