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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. The Bishop

    Well, now they are facing what Christians would face in the grand ole kingdom of Saud if we built a church. If they would truly be tolerant, than things would be different; but anyone with half a brain knows that Islam is inherently evil. Read the Qu'ran people and open your eyes. There are approximately 103 verses that sanction the killing of Jews and Christians. Does this sound like a religion of peace?

    September 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • Son of Spam

      Oh? You're read the Quran, have you?

      September 4, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • AGA

      I can truly say that there are no verses that sanction the killing of innocent people (Jews, Christians, etc.)
      bishop those specific verses (revealed 1400 years ago) were talking about defending against the infidel (the quraish) because at tht time there was immense persecution against the Muslims. These verses were for that period only and do not apply to today. And no where does it specifically mention killing Christians an Jews. The Quran doesn't refer to you guys as infidels. It calls Christians and Jews "people of the book" becuz we beloved in the Torah and the gospel too.
      1. Don't eat way the media feeds you
      2. If my religion was not a peaceful one then there would be chaos a hundred times tht of today's age. (considering the number of followers we have)
      3. Always make sure you get ur "facts" checked.
      Peace be upon you.

      http://www.whyislam.org

      September 4, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  2. klarg

    Sad to see that Tennessee (birthplace of the KKK) continues to follow the wrong traditions.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  3. jj20091991

    let me guess people are going to say they shouldnt have built this mosque to close to ground zero...lol i know people were just using ground zero to hide there racisim

    September 3, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  4. hmr

    I hate islam! they all need to get a reality check .....and take a look at the calendar. And find out what year thery're living in.
    2nd.......they need to take into account that they are far more INTOLORANT of other religons. Islam wants to take over the world and all culures. WAKE UP AMERICA. ISAM IS DANGEROUS.........they want to come to your back yard and kill you and your fam in the name of allah

    September 3, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • klarg

      People who react as you do are as nearly dangerous as terrorists.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • ProudMuslimAmerican

      Did you forget to take your pills today? Its people like you who incite hate, fear and paranoia without knowing the facts yourself!! SHAME ON YOU!

      September 4, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  5. hmr

    I hate islam! they all need to get a reality check .....and take a look at the calendar. And find out what year thery're living in.
    2nd.......they need to take into account that they are far more INTOLORANT of other religons. Islam wants to take over the world and all culures. WAKE UP AMERICA. ISAM IS DANGEROUS.........they want to come to your back yard and kill you and your fam in the name of allah.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • ouican

      i know muslims.. and they aren't like that at all... i feel bad for you, your an idiot

      September 3, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Momo

      youve been smoking too much pot.. delusioned man.

      September 4, 2010 at 4:35 am |
    • jean2009

      Do you really think you should be talking about intolerance?

      September 4, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  6. realworld

    I'm glad it only took them nearly a week. Did they think the accelerants came from the sky, and were then struck by lightning?

    September 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  7. Translation

    The fire's an arson? Gee, you think?

    September 3, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  8. Adan

    "Somebody here in Rutherford County knows what happened here," the Arsonist?

    A justful resolution that will even hurt the unknown criminal is to use tax money to compensate for any hate related crime. It is the failure of the entire society when a minority group is targeted especially when leaders or would be leaders use vitriol language.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  9. garrett goodwin

    Ok folks here's the deal I spent 4 hrs at the petagon on that fatefull tues night and arrived at 9 11 in NY at 630 am on the 12th I spent 24 days there digging thru rubble And removing bodys and mostly body parts. Then as I was in the army as a "special" medic I was deployed to afghanistan 3 times. I am not political. I am not very religious. But I am christian. I am white and not homosexual. That being said. I don't agree with a mosque that close to ground zero as its in bad taste. But my friends have died and I wounded to defend that RIGHT to do so. If we as AMERICANS " terrorize" other faiths than our own on american soil r we not hypocrites? R not catholics buddist mormans jews AND muslims also AMERICANS? I was appalled to hear the lt govener say such a thing. REALY? TN leadership feels that way ? That is not true americanism. I cried I bled I lost I removed body and mostly just parts from 9 11. I don't belive that all muslims are jihadists. Remember its a "christan " church group protesting at falling soldiers funerals. REALY? That's what ur jesus would do ? Not mine. Our country was based on religious freedom that's why evryone came here to begin with. So I say shame on u for fear instead of tolerance as the bible and god and jesus. Preaches. Shame on u for being UN AMERICAN. What did I sacrafice for then if not that ? What did my friends die for if not religious freedom? If ur a terrorist u desrve to die. But if ur just muslim? What's the problem ? U could be jew catholic or christian and somewhere someone else hates u. That's not supposed to be america. Pls don't make our sacrafice mean nothing by shooting out words and acts of hated and ignorence and sometimes arrogence. My name is Garrett Goodwin. U can look me up on google if u think I lieing. And I approve this message. Lol.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  10. Matt

    Out with the Mosques. Islam does NOT belong in the US. Just look at the Islamic infestation of Europe.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
    • Jason

      You are an idiot.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • Gramma74

      I agree with you Matt. The Islamic religion the muslims study, Quoran, tells them to lie to infidels, then destroy them. They have a single goal they are pursing, to convert American infidels and if we refuse they are to kill us by beheading or stoning us to death. All you do-gooders just keep thinking like you are and you will be among the first to have your head cut off! Wake up America. Look what is happening in France & England. They want Islam to be the ONLY religion. They do NOT want to live in peace with other religions because Mohammad tells them otherwise. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. We are in for the fight of our lives. If you all aren't frightened, you should be. They are coming for all of us!

      September 4, 2010 at 9:57 am |
    • MrsFizzy

      And yet France just banned the Burqa...

      September 4, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  11. aargh

    I'm from Murfreesboro. There are many loving, educated and enlightened people living in that beautiful town. There people of many nations, many religions and many heritages. Our town embraced Laotian Boat People and refugees from Iran. Murfreesboro is at the ancient crossroads of the original peoples of North America including the much lamented Trail of Tears. It is also the site of one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

    After the lessons learned and the progress made, it is deeply, deeply saddening to know that such bigotry as the arson of a community center is still emanating from Middle Tennessee.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  12. Nursehope

    Toothless, brainless, hillbillies afraid of their own "brown" shadow. That pretty much sums up the followers of Beck, Limbaugh et.al. Oh yes, they are home now praying to their Jesus/God and waiting for the rapture! Hope they have a good attorney.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  13. Islam-A-lie

    Whoever did this deserves a medal and more funding.

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

      Is that what you said when Christian Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal building in OKC?

      September 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • heterohighelf

      don't worry about jason..they always bark the timothy mcveigh thing, but they are too blind to know that he was a Militant Agnostic...my step-uncle was his attorney..i wonder if anything written in the koran may have something do do with all of this new-fangled islamophobia happennin' here in these western parts of the world?

      September 3, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • AGA

      @ hetero
      this islamaphobia is only becuz Americans misunderstand Islam. Don't be one of them.
      You will find this link helpful. Peace be upon you.

      http://www.whyislam.org

      September 4, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  14. WhitePower

    screw integration.. muslims dont care about conforming to our system, so why the hell should we respect or bend over for them?

    September 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • Kate

      Why is it every time I hear the phrase "White Power" I keep thinking "Now with added baking soda"?

      September 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • aargh

      @Kate
      Because bigots are dyspeptic. It doesn't set well with a healthy Constitution.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
    • Margaret

      Kate, good one!

      September 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  15. Segs

    The Muslim religion has come to be in the eyes of Americans an evil religion that is not accepted in this country. This association has evolved from the fact that it was Muslims who knocked down the twin towers. Regardless of the many years of war which was completely useless, Americans feel that the action was not revenged and therefore are in a situation of having to take matters into their own hands.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
    • Margaret

      Do not use the word "Americans" to describe people who share your bias and hatred. There are many of us who see things quite differently from you.

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

      Building the mosk might make revenge possible in the eyes of some

      September 4, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  16. Gideon524

    I don't think CNN is even aware of is the fact that the day AFTER the fire, the very same site was shot at. Gotta love southern hospitality.

    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/aug/29/shots-fired-near-murfreesboro-mosque-site/

    September 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  17. JustSaying

    Every single one of us is playing into a grand plan. Muslims vs. whoever, all that junk, it's all just so that we'll fight each other to the bitter end. Why can't everyone see that?

    If we perpetuate hate, hate will be perpetuated... Also, 2+2=4... I see these people saying to bomb Muslims, or Americans, or wherever your allegiance lies, and I can't help but wonder why you think you're helping in any way by sharing and spreading a negative, destructive, violent, hypocritical attitude towards anyone. If you're American and you say we should kill them, why don't you think they would be saying the same thing about you?

    If you're Muslim or anything else and your religion dictates that you should kill anyone, you're just in the wrong camp. Period. Love is universal, and it's the answer to all of this.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  18. Lies the 90's told us

    I can't belive our country. This is dispicable- to all of those people out there who like to point the finger at terrorists- well, here is our "American Terorists" at work. I would be willing to bet cash that they are a "radical Christian" who is perpetrating this crime. I am so ashamed of the generations of people above me who are convinced that all Muslims are terrorists- individuals are terrorists, not whole religions. This is America, we have the right to be who we want and worship what we want!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  19. AJ

    In reality the Rightwing Biblethumpers in the US are vitually the same as the Taliban. Just exchange a burka for a Nascar jacket.

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

      There's nothing wrong with high-octane fuel and exotic rubber.

      September 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  20. AJ

    I'm so proud I had a relative in the Union Army who killed many traitorous CONfederates! I wish the Red States would just seceed and America would be a much better place without all the rightwing white trash rednecks!

    September 3, 2010 at 8:42 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.