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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. Don

    Keep it classy, America!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • Margaret

      After reading these comments, I think we've sunk to a new low.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  2. Wzrd1

    Amazing. It REALLY is, how everything is moderated. Network block coming on.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
    • Kate

      @Wzrd1

      It's the lack of moderation is getting to me – actual real moderation, not that keyword crud.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
    • Jibril

      Kate wants to silence all opposing voices – now which religion is intolerant of criticism, let's see...hmmmm

      September 4, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  3. AJ

    If it acts like ansd speaks like a Faux News/Rightwing hate radio follower,you know for certain that person is a racist bigot who hates ANYONE different then them. Most have IQs lower then Sarah the quitter Palin! You betcha!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  4. Kelli Potomac

    Religious tolerance in this country is an oxymoron.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  5. shaan

    Your cousin was killed by morons who call themselves Muslims. Thats ok, nothing a little education cant fix...

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

      Eduction is going to fix his cousin being killed?

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

      NYC-

      No, education will allow her to differentiate between who killed her cousins and who didn't. Our government's strong allies with the Saudi's, take it up with them. As for the terrorists, they were 19 hijackers that killed in the name of religion. Please explain to me how you can let 19 people speak for the billions that don't support such a crime? And please do tell about our funding of Ben Laden against the Soviet's in Afghanistan... Or our alliance with Sadamm before the Persian Gulf war.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  6. Terry - Indiana

    I would be interested to know if this turns out to be insurance fraud on the part of the construction contractor.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  7. Margaret

    Am I the only one who thinks CNN needs to redesign the "Comments" section of the Belief Blog? Is there some logic to the order of comments or do they just pop up willy nilly?

    September 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
    • Hell is real

      Actually CNN or any other places where there are postings like these are causing real hate mongering amongst people. People think they are following the freedom of expression but in reality they are doing Satan's work and causing mischief and you know what they will get in the day of judgement...they know it and they can not run from it.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  8. PARROT

    RACIST REDNECKS!!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
    • 4thofJulybaby

      Polly want a cracker?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  9. shaan

    If people actually took the time they spent being ignorant,and used that time to educate themselves about all religions,I think that most would find that they are all more alike than they are different. And besides, no matter what or who people believe in, destruction of property, especially when arson is involved really is not condoned by any religion. Gas prices are a wee bit to high to be using it for anything but running an engine.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
    • Name*Meli

      I can't believe everything I am reading .I came to this country as a refugee 11 years ago and became citizen 5 years later.All man including all boys 12 and up in my family were killed because they were muslims.For 3 years everyone watched the war in middle of the Europe.8000 people killed in just one place over 3 days and all of them muslims.My grandfather was in this group , my uncles,their boys.Babies and women.Even after all this I don't judge people by religion.God will judge everyone when time comes.Since I arrived to USA I have worked for non profit helping refugees from all over the World and all religions.Nobody understands what the war is unless you have been in one.Nobody has right to judge people except God.No religion allows killing not even Islam.Everyone should take time to read and learn about religions before speaking out and not just religions anything else.Reading all this posts about hate it just makes me scared for a future of this country.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  10. Regina

    My cousin died in 9.11 so i do not give a flying crap about the muslims.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
    • 4thofJulybaby

      I have four relatives who barely made it out. Ditto on sentiments.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • Luke

      What are your thoughts on Catholics? Their leaders abuse children. Do place blame on Catholics in general or do you pare out abusers from the group?

      September 3, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • Jibril

      "Luke" – give it a rest. people are not buying your crap equating pedophile priests with murdering Muslims

      September 4, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Momo

      and IM sure muslims dont give a flying crap about you either, because we are not responsible for 911.

      September 4, 2010 at 4:31 am |
    • MrsFizzy

      Of course, that is also the reaction that Al-Qaeda would want you to have. They wanted to spur a holy war. This animosity is all part of their plans...and some of us are falling in line.

      September 4, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  11. Matt

    That's nothing compared to what is going to happen in New York if they build that mosque. That is why I said before that it is just irresponsible for the Muslim leaders to be so stubborn about it. Just watch, the pooh is gonna hit the fan sooner or later, then all the stupid people are gonna be scratching their heads asking profoundly stupid questions like, "Who would do such a thing? And why would anyone ever do such a thing." It's the innocent people who might be in harm's way that I am concerned about. And it will be the fault of the stupid leaders who lead their flock to the slaughter knowingly.

    I would not build a Church in a place that hates Christianity, so why would anyone build a Mosque in a place which is still scared by Islam's most extreme? It's just nuts.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • Luke

      Well, it's not a mosque, so what exactly are you talking about? It has a pool, performing arts center and a weight room. The fact that it has a prayer room doesn't make it a mosque. That's like saying the JCC on the upper west side is a temple because it has a prayer space on the 4th floor. Just ignorant.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
    • Shannon

      Luke

      Don't be blind... these muslims want the Americans to think its not a mosque just a some kind of interfaith center... Sweety its a mosque alright. They will be doing their religions in the name if islam there... majority of us are not stupid in what they are trying to do. They are laughing at us as we speak.... This land of America has been too defiled already.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
    • Jibril

      It's not a mosque, it's a bomb factory

      September 4, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  12. SandyC

    I hope that the ATF looked at the possibility of an inside job. These people thrive on drama and they would not hesitate to 'set up' an "attack" for the news coverage!
    Not believable!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • Margaret

      "These people" ....

      And what people would those be? They couldn't be just what they look like? Fellow Americans building a place of worship?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • Hell is real

      Sandy, you go and get drunk and come back when you are in your senses.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
    • Jason

      Glenn Beck called, he wants his paranoia back.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
    • Jibril

      ATF only said "looks like arson". Soon they'll say " Arson done by mosque promoters"

      September 4, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  13. USMC

    Alia Ak Bar!!!!!!!!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • Guy Smiley

      A-LA PEANUT-BUTTER SANDWICHES!

      September 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Blade of NOSOG

      a la Ka-bar!

      September 3, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
    • the winking brown eye sees all of you

      Todd is Great!

      September 3, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
    • all of you

      @the winking brown eye

      Stop looking at me!

      And Todd is not all that great, you know...sheesh! Get a life!

      September 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
    • heterohighelf

      Allah hu GAYBAR! boom!boom!boom! .....hhmmmmmmm...i wonder if that's why beards are so fashionable among the radical muslims?

      September 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  14. rsp

    Just proves that the Church of England should have burned all those Protestant heretics move to the Colonies ... they have been here too long messing up our country founded by our Deist/ Unitarian founding fathers ... time to round them all up and ship them home!!!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  15. Lee Oates

    The US has not changed much since the 60's, they just switch targets to attack periodically....Indians -> Blacks -> Mexicans -> Moslums.....Next, little blue people from Mars.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  16. Jones

    Tennessee, sounds good to me. So does burning down a Mosque.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
    • Jason

      The next time you pain the inside of the trailer, try opening a window.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  17. Mack

    What are Muslims doing in Tennessee? That's one of the least tolerant places a person can be. They hate gays there and sure as heck hate Muslims too.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
    • Gilda

      They've been a part of the Murfreesboro community for the past 30 years.

      Now the non-Muslim citizens are getting their panties in a wad because the locals Musllims want to build their community center.

      Were they in such a dither over the past 30 years? I doubt it.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
    • Eric

      I am sure your professor told you that or you read it somewhere.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  18. Margaret

    I'm really hoping this was just a bunch of bored kids who got drunk one night and went after the most convenient target. In other words, non-religious arson. Because the alternative, that this was a hate crime, is very troubling.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
    • Von Duker

      Is it all right for Muslims to hate?

      September 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
    • Luke

      Well...burning the site simply because they are Muslim is a hate crime. It doesn't matter who did it. Even if it were kids goofing around, it still constitutes a hate crime.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
    • Margaret

      Hate crime is never right, no matter who does it.

      September 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
    • Jibril

      Muslims are forbidden from hating. It is a religion of Peace. If a Muslims is suspected of hating, they are immediately stoned to death by their friends and family.

      September 4, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  19. Jim Fawcett

    Hey, if the government won't stop these anti-christs from building their mosques, then the American people will!! It is Allah's will.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
    • Von Duker

      ALLAH the moon God?

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

      "Anti-Christs?" Puhleeze. Muslims honor Christ as a prophet and holy man.

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

      According to your playbook, the bible, there can't be "anti-christs"...there will be an "anti-christ", singular. Of course, I doubt you've read the bible, or any other book for that matter, so your mistake is understandable.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • jonathan

      that would make those who did stop them by violence the anti-Christs..Jesus is all into ....blessing those who curse you , praying for them who dispitefully misuse you , doing good to them who do evil to you..ans such like...It is anti-Christ to kill ....For Jesus was cut from a mountain not made with hands 🙂

      September 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • jonathan

      Jason you got it wrong buddy read it for yourself beginning in first John chapter 2:

      September 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Harry Kuheim

    Just open a strip club or Gay bar in the same area. Maybe a Dog Park? Kosher Deli? Lots of options here instead of arson.

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

      Not if you burn the pastrami...

      September 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
    • Matt

      The people doing the burning wouldn't like either of THOSE either.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:24 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.