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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. sczlittle

    I am sure it was a local business that had the contract to build, and now they have to pay for their losses. if they had Insurance now their insurance is going to go up. hurt the local people to push your stupidity and hate. Stupid

    September 3, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  2. sczlittle

    The Racist and ignorant are showing their colors. Fueled by the terrorist funded foxnews. How Sad how our country has stooped so LOW.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • joe

      bigots are bad but redneck bigots are worse

      September 3, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • sczlittle

      Yep>> I'm from Alabama and the ignorance is everywhere. It's sad that so many people believe foxnews. It's on everywhere.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  3. mleader

    I am a muslim and belive me I never enjoyed 9/11. I love America as like as you and will never accept any harm of Her(America).

    Now whoever idiots, belives that, muslim are belogons to another country, remember America is not yours. Fighting with muslim will be not only foolish but also deadly and will destory the world. They have money, power and more importantely almost 2 billions of people. Remember you are not fighting banko Russian. This fight is very different you can't even imagine like Bush. The most trained army of the world can't handle even Afganistan. How you will handle 2 billions.

    The way you hate muslims, just step out of your home, you will see other people also hates you. Just go to Europe or Canada. First do home work. MUSLIM WASN'T INVOLVED IN 9/11. See what problem you have b4 you blaim others. Muslim never hated America. They want to come America for freedom and to build America as like me. I don't have to defend muslim. If you have common sense, you should understand.

    God Bless America.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  4. jcoldwater

    go read your bible... pay special attention to what Christ said and then decide what is right.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  5. Jonny

    Sorry to say we all came from two people and i beleave we are the same except the rednecks there just rednecks and always will be you KKK FREAKSssss

    September 3, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • Eric

      hmmmmm !!!!! Sounds like you hate white people !!!!

      September 3, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  6. Joe in TN

    I am embarrassed and ashamed of my state. Not all Tennesseans are this hateful or ignorant. Belief in the constitution is not a pick and choose proposition. They have been there for over 2 decades without incident. They have the right to build on land they own, just like any other church. Like it or not.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  7. Hollywood

    If You Ask Me They Had It Coming This Is The USA They Think That They Can Just Come Over Here And Build Any Where

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

      well... yes. they can.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Jonny

      Its the USA buddy its a free Country you Fruit Cake, we will build more and more and more and more and more and more and you can burn more and more and more and more and at the end we will FORGIVE and just keep on building but we will not burn and Churches

      September 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • AFSGT

      You mean they are behaving like the white men who came to this land and murdered the Native Americans then bought black men to do their work because they thought they could just take whatever they wanted? I'm proud to say that NOT one of my ancestors was in America until after 1900 so I don't have to worry that my heritage includes murderers or slaveowners.

      September 4, 2010 at 2:44 am |
    • jean2009

      The last I checked every word in a sentence doesn't start with a capital letter...what's with that?

      September 4, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  8. Eowyn

    You people are idiots. You don't live here. You have no idea how it is affecting the community. We already live in a world torn by violence and pain. We don't need this. We can do without your bigoted, ranting, racist remarks that do no one any good. Hate? Arson? We can do with out your pontification whilst hiding behind your motherboard. Put a sock in it. We don't need you. If freedom of religion is denied one, it is denied all.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  9. Jason

    Eric, when you characterize somebody, it's "you are" which is contracted to "you're"...not "your". For example..."Eric you're an incredibly ignorant person with serious anger issues'. "Your" is used to show possession. For example..."Eric, your Rush Limbaugh Klan Hood arrived in the mail today." That help any?

    September 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Jason

      Now THAT was funny...priceless.... πŸ™‚ LOL!!!!!!!

      Peace.....

      September 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  10. Mar

    I wonder what Sarah Palin's Tweet regarding this matter says, possibly " We know it's unconstitutional, but does that make it wrong?"

    September 3, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  11. Keith

    I'm curious, did the FBI offer a $20,000 reward for information on those individuals responsible for that rash of church burnings?

    September 3, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  12. Mar

    That's just awful Mike! Do you really mean the words you said?

    September 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  13. tammie croft

    what happend to freedom of religion... that is shameful

    September 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  14. PDXSerric

    No, America isn't Islamaphobic at all.

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

    Ill just sum up my comment in one post. Who says it was a Christian that did this? Either way, its unfortunate that someone felt they needed to resort to such a reckless response.,, Lets not combat intolerance with intolerance until we know exactly who did it,.

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

      you know it was some white dude.. cmon now... its always a white dude.

      September 4, 2010 at 4:36 am |
  16. hmr

    "You are destined to loose.

    Allah-Hu-Akbar

    Saudi Arabia's $100 billion investment over the last 3 decades on over 60 thousands Madrassas and school all over the Islamic world is finally paying off. While the West was busy inventing medicine, increasing life expectancy, elevating human suffering, decoding human gene to find cure for Cancer, heart disease etc, launching space shuttle, inventing internet, working on new laws/theory for human rights, developing better economical models for a more prosperous world, while ACLU was gaining control over common sense, while American ingenuity was benefiting the rest of the world, we Muslims were busy producing over 200 million out of 1.4 billion, Walking, Talking, Non-Thinking, West-Hating, Pre-Programmed, Suicidal, Parasitic, Terrorist Robots. You can't win. The Genie is out of the bottle.

    We will use American’s kindness, fairness, compassion, freedom of speech and non-discriminatory policy against them. We will stab them in the back.

    What are you going to do? You are doomed. "

    September 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • Mar

      Let's drill Oil in our own backyard instead of paying Billions to the Saudi's for it... Cool?

      September 4, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • MrsFizzy

      Shouldn't you credit the author of that masterpiece?

      September 4, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  17. Isabel

    Search Islam's War on the West by Howard Bloom. You will be enlightened,in a bad way.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  18. Bill

    This country is so funny. United States citizens have been practicing terrorism since the birth of this country. First it was the Native Americans. Then it was the blacks. Now it's muslims. The KKK is a terrorist group? Neo Nazi and other white supremacist groups are terrorist groups. They have been operating in this country for centuries. The hate crimes that are taking place now against muslims are acts of terrorism. There are billions of muslims in this world. A Small percentage of them are radicals. Should all ethnic people go after every Caucasian person because there are some Caucasians that are members of white supremacist group? Thinking every Muslim is a terrorist or has something to do with terrorism is like thinking every Italian is involved with the Mob. Grow up people. Look at things Rationally. 9/11 was designed to turn our country against itself. And so far it has worked. We are turning into our enemy. Crap Economy, Christian Radicals instead of islamic radicals, and religious intolerance.

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

      Hmmmm!!!!! You should try to move to a safer country.

      September 3, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • mleader

      Whoever thinks muslim should leave America, it is time to kick them out from America. You know, we can kick very hard πŸ™‚

      September 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Fed Up

    Good!!!! Burn all mosques!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

      A "MUSLIM" is someone who sumbits there will to GOD..Do you submit your will to GOD or the devil? Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) is a descendant of Prophet Abraham(PBUH). ISLAM is the only NON-CHRISTIAN religion that believes in JESUS(PBUH)..Jesus is a respected Prophet. Jesus also refered to GOD as ALLAH..Muslim also believe in the secong coming of Jesus, heaven & hell, day of judgement...THe Quran is in it's orginal lanugauge Arabic & still original text, meaning it been the same since it was written century ago..Who wrote the Bible, it's been edited rewritten, omissions & English is only 900 yr old.You lose alot in translation....WOW MUSLIMS & CHRISTIAN HAVE ALOT IN COMMON BUT HATERS ONLY THE DIFFERENCE...Good Luck on the Day of Judgement:) PEACE..PS. MUSLIMs Citizens in the U.S. didn't commit 9/11, so why are you taking your anger out on your fellow Amercians, great why to create more hate

      September 4, 2010 at 12:26 am |
  20. Mark

    You sure it just wasn't one of those liberal environmentalist protesting the new construction?? πŸ™‚

    September 3, 2010 at 9:55 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.