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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. Venu

    Planet will be far far better without Islam and their followers.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:00 am |
    • Sam

      When is your nest KKK meeting?

      September 4, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  2. Venu

    Expext more fireworks...Muslims at it again...

    September 4, 2010 at 2:58 am |
  3. Venu

    Al Quida at work...to create tension between communities...

    September 4, 2010 at 2:55 am |
  4. Moe

    I guess the kkk are still around living in TN

    September 4, 2010 at 2:32 am |
  5. Dee

    I didn't read all of the comments made here but one thing is clear the conspiracy junkies are out in force. Lets look at the FACTS that are known at this point
    1. Machinery at a construction site (a vacant lot) was destroyed by arson.
    2. The site was to become an Islamic Center, I am not sure if it was to operate along with or replace the Mosque that is
    approx. 10 miles away from the site

    Now without making assumptions lets ask questions

    1. Was there evidence that anyone using the site for partying? People, especially younger people, have been known to do stupid things under the influence.

    2. Who profitted from the fire?
    3. Who owned the equipment? Did that person(s) have need of money or new equipment?
    4. If it was a hate crime why didn't they burn the Mosque instead of the contractors equipment?
    5 Is this maybe just some one being drunk and dumb?
    6. Is this maybe someone taking advantage of the political BULL (both sides) that is sweeping the country to cover insurance fraud?
    7. Or is it some one that is as intolerant as many posting in this Blog and acting out against the Muslims?

    I have no answers based on the story written and unless someone out there is clairvoyant neither does anyone else so lets wait and see what the evidence shows.

    Just a side note: Rutherford County, the county inwhich Murfreesboro is located had a string of arsons at construction sites just a few years ago. Do you think may be it might be a serial arsonist?

    September 4, 2010 at 2:25 am |
  6. CanadaRob

    I can't believe some of the comments that are posted here. Diversity, not assimilation has helped make The United States of American the great nation that it is today. It is very sad to see xenophobia develop into paranoid violence against an imagined threat. Your country is not under attack from muslims, nor has it ever been. Some posts imply that this was a preemptive strike, but preemptive against what? A centre that stands to enrich the community? Look to your hearts Murfreesboro and embrace the construction of this centre.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:20 am |
    • Christian Copts!!!

      Read this people....see why himmler thought islam is like nationla socialism and how turkey was an ally to germany in both wars and as always chickened out when the heat turned up....
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13th_Waffen_Mountain_Division_of_the_SS_Handschar_(1st_Croatian)

      September 4, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  7. Brian

    A Christian extremist lives by the ten commandments and tries to tell others about Jesus. A Islamic extremest blows you up.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  8. JusticeHen

    Congrats to whoever set the fire. Keep up the good work. You are America's heroes! Hopefully all the mosques in the U.S. and Europe will burn.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:11 am |
  9. sargeanton

    The mosque burning was wrong; and the perps should be prosecuted. However, anyone who thinks that Islam is NOT at war witht the US is an idiot ...including, and perhaps especially, our muslim president who ought to be tried for treason.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:07 am |
    • AFSGT

      Have you even bothered to read the truth? President Obama is now and always has been a Christian. If you refuse to believe the truth about that then it's no wonder you present yourself to the world by making such an idiotic statement.

      September 4, 2010 at 2:27 am |
    • Kate

      @AFSGT

      At this point, he could tell people he was black and 75% of survey respondents would say they didn't believe him.

      It's ridiculous. I mean, we all know politicians lie, but there's a limit to how much people can believe one would!

      You'd think ...

      Right??

      Just sayin'

      September 4, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  10. outawork

    Why does everyone assume that only someone opposed the the mosque set the fire?

    September 4, 2010 at 1:51 am |
  11. mtnthc

    You might be a redneck,...if you set fire to a mosque

    September 4, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  12. testify

    This is what america has come to. There was a time when church fire bombing was a tool if fear and ignorance and it is back again. Those who forget history are destined to repeat it....

    September 4, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • Kate

      @testify

      I hadn't even thought of the similarities until you pointing this out. *sigh*

      Just shakin' my head

      September 4, 2010 at 1:57 am |
  13. mdband

    Now – that is a top notch investigative crack team those Feds have.

    I figured the construction equipment just spontaneously combusted. I heard it happens all the time.

    And it only took a week to figure it out!

    September 4, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  14. Jessie

    Christians are insane. Can you expect any less from them?

    September 4, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  15. jensen

    I'm really conflicted by this issue.. on one hand I'm not exactly a fan of Islam BUT on the other I also despise ignorant inbreds like some some of these sister loving hicks from TN. Can't we just send all them bunches to some remote island and nuke it from orbit?

    September 4, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  16. gpl2032

    Lol...face it, we don't want that cult religion in the USA!!

    September 4, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  17. crisy003

    Building a mosque in the South... Hmmm... And we're surprised that there was an arson attack???

    September 4, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  18. NoGods.

    This is only sad because it wasnt more churches and mosques that were burned. We should all burn the religious establishments and thus break their control on our society. I am only sorry that more religious worship places were not destroyed.

    September 4, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Guest

      Wow, I had no idea that buildings could control a country. Soo instead of destroying political parties, you should just burn the White House and destory Capitol Hill. That will put an end to our government for sure. Youre the moron. You can tear down and burn all the churches and religious establishments you want, that will never break the faith and belief. God is Almighty!

      September 4, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  19. Noble9

    The Bible teaches the Mohammed (pbuh) was a vile corrupter born of the sons of Ham. Jesus even calls the Muslims the "kin of the Lightbringer (Lucifer)".

    September 4, 2010 at 12:20 am |
    • NoGods.

      And I am sure you believe every word of that made up madness dont you? you stupid tool wake up!

      September 4, 2010 at 12:39 am |
    • jake

      Mmmm not sure what kind of bible you're reading son but my KJV 1611 says nothing of these things you said. You're either a liar at best and a blesphemous soul at worst.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • kevin

      Interesting, seeing that Mohammad wasn't even born when the bible was written, but born almost 600 years later, so it obviously couldn't be written in the original bible, you must have borrowed Sarah Palin's bible.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  20. Joe

    to all you ignorant haters, who have small minds & hearts: 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 12:14 am |
    • Jibril

      Behead those who say Islam is violent

      September 4, 2010 at 12:23 am |
    • JusticeHen

      How about behead those who are Muslim?

      September 4, 2010 at 2:14 am |
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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.