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. Suke Me Dik


    September 4, 2010 at 5:12 am |
    • Ashke Ray

      We should outlaw this religion in USA.

      September 4, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  2. Wim

    A civil war is imminent. Soon, all mosques will burn, and muslimpigs will be dragged out of their homes. Muslimpigs did that in Kosovo. It's payback time now. Be prepared to fight islam, unless you want your children and grandchildren, to wake up under a BURKA or NIQAAB !!! Ordinary people already formed a kind of Home Guard to attack every muslim in our neighborhoud. Wherever you live, be prepared to fight the muslimpigs !!! Form Home Guards without uniforms, so that the muslimpigs and leftist "politicians" don't know who's a member of the guard or not. BE READY !!!

    September 4, 2010 at 5:07 am |
    • ProudMuslimAmerican

      Hey who let this retard out of his straight jacket!!!

      September 4, 2010 at 7:12 am |
    • steve

      In spite of the fact that, with equal populations in evidence, there are ten times more hate crimes against jews than muslims, you expect that the muslims would get "it" first? Seems a trifle unlikely to me.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  3. Doug

    Go ahead, build your house of hatred at ground zero.. This is only the beginning.. Just wait and see.. You reap what you sow !

    September 4, 2010 at 5:01 am |
    • CC

      Go ahead. Build your hatred twoard innocent people from wounds caused by those who are unrelated to those who do no harm. It's okay, only every war and massacre has started with that. Don't try and heal your wounds, accept others for their differences and make amends, and FORGIVE (boy i wonder who started this forgiveness crap, jesus was really stupid).

      September 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Marney_5

    I really hate religion!!!

    September 4, 2010 at 4:55 am |
  5. jean

    If you think Americans have islamaphobia, come to Ireland.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:39 am |
  6. Momo

    America.. land of Hatred and bigots....

    September 4, 2010 at 4:38 am |
  7. Momo

    Yet another IP address being registered at the FBI. Keep making threats.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  8. Coeus

    Christian terrorists from USA start fire at a Muslim's Community center where facilities are supposed to be for followers of all religions!

    September 4, 2010 at 4:24 am |
  9. Bob

    Go build your buildings in your own country.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:15 am |
  10. fedutohere

    Blame Mayor Bloomberg, blame Rauf and their stupid determination to built a mosque at Ground Zero for this heinous act of arson. No, they personally did not light the match, however the Muslims and their dhimmis have to know that tolerance works both ways and North Americans are just fed up with political correctness and tolerance which is shoved down our throats and that is apparently is a one way street. Muslims better start adapting to the American way of life rather than vice-versa. Muslims must recognize our sensitivities before they demand we adhere to theirs.. Period.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:03 am |
    • steve

      I directly observed around a hundred of the local muslims demonstrating loudly in the town square of Murfreesboro in support of a terrorist organization. If I were living in that area, I would suppose that the muslim population of the area condones terrorism wether or not it directly provides material support or martyrs.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  11. j


    September 4, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  12. mohamed

    damn infidels

    September 4, 2010 at 4:02 am |
  13. mohamed


    September 4, 2010 at 3:57 am |
    • Sar22

      Jesus just blow your self up already

      September 4, 2010 at 5:46 am |
    • warsteiner

      Mohammad is a pansy and you all are going to hell. The korans discription of heaven is ridiculous and sounds like a travel brochure for Maine.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  14. GloriaSeattle

    Always surprised we haven't come that far in 2010 to not hate due to race, religious beliefs, or socio-economic class. For all of our technological and religious expertise we're still persecuting anything that isn't Christian or looks different. If some of us are not proud at times to be Americans, acts like this are why. Whoever did this to this mosque is putting themselves on the same level as any of the unbalanced people they associate with American Muslims. I hope the law isn't a "kangaroo court, police" etc... and that justice can be served in the south. Hopefully, this crazy "Bubba"/" Bubbette" will be punished not only for what they did, but how bad he/she makes Americans look!

    September 4, 2010 at 3:56 am |
    • steve

      I directly observed around a hundred local muslim in the murfreesboro town square demonstrating in support of a terrorist organization. I was there from out of state working IT projects for some local law firms. If I were a local I would assume the local muslim population at least condoned terrorist acts whether or not they provided material support or martyrs.

      September 5, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • Kate


      When did you see this? What organization? Data to support your allegation, so we can all fact-check it – otherwise it's just rumor innuendo and rabblerouser insinuation BS.

      September 5, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  15. dee

    There was a time in history when white folks were racist against all race. Nothing new. Your not any better than any other race. stop this racist stuff

    September 4, 2010 at 3:39 am |
  16. ray

    racism still exists. Against, the japanese, veitnamese, germans, againsts the black, now against the middle easterns as well as muslims. You guys never give up. When are you going to realize that you are not better than everybody else and the world is not created only for you.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:32 am |
  17. common sense

    Mosque's today yesterday it was black churches that these fellas attacked.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  18. Regular American Dude

    I don't want Muslums ANYWHERE near me. Do you not understand that their Koran teaches that all Christians are "infadels" & will eventually convert or die? Sure,, they say they come in peace, but yet they can't even live in peace amongst other Muslums elsewhere. If you do not understand their teachings, then go ahead & be ignorant, for I know exactly what they have in mind, it's just a matter of time. They're killing Christians DAILY elsewhere, yet are you so naive to think that they'll never hope to bring Sharia Law here to America? You have no idea what's already going on.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:13 am |
    • Kate

      @Regular American Dude

      Funny, I always thought
      “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.” – 5:69
      ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.” – 5:82

      summed it up much better that Fox News' Cliff Notes.

      Of course, it's not really our fault that we've gotten bad translations of "infidels" from the media to begin with, and there are plenty of bad Christians around who give Christianity a bad name (the Westboro Baptist Church dishonoring our fallen heroes on a near-daily basis for example) to show that every religion has extremists.

      Of course, WBC wanting to impose their version of Sha'ria law on everyone never seems to garner nearly as much attention ...

      Just sayin'

      September 4, 2010 at 3:23 am |
    • ProudMuslimAmerican

      You sure you did'nt learn that from Glen Beck? I doubt with your bigoted opinions anyone would want to be near you – muslim or non-muslim! BTW no one is bringing sharia law to America and no one ever taught me to hate Christians or Jews or people of any faith really, growing up as a muslim!!

      September 4, 2010 at 7:07 am |
    • Christian Copts!!!

      i agree with u....if anyone has eyes to see let them see what they are doing to christians in egypt and iraq and lebanon...!!! and then tell me if they are a religion of peace or war...!!!!....they have double measures...they want people to treat them well while they kill everyone that is different to them..and we should Accept the simple truth that they are always right....islam is the end of this world...as my opinion it is worst then the national socialisim of the Nazis...because they teach it as a religion.

      September 4, 2010 at 8:29 am |
    • AGA



      September 4, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • CC

      About how many times a day do you hit yourself in a head with a hammer? Just wondering......

      September 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  19. Nick

    Americans are super-dumb. I feel sorry for the 10% of Americans who are intelligent.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  20. Sam

    The responsibility for these crimes rests on the shoulders of the right wing leaders and right wing neo cons on radio spreading hate and incitement to their brainless followers in committing these crimes by using code words. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbough, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and other right wing extremists are intentionally spreading hate towards the Muslim community by making hateful comments in the media. This the same reason the cab driver in Newyork was brutally attacked. As Americans we should not allow this to go on. This is against the principals of our constitution by denying the same rights that we would never give up. It's time for real Americans to raise our voices to protect the minority bill of rights granted by our constitution.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:05 am |
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About this blog

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.