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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. jaredcottino

    Burn down someone else's church because they are different? Yikes, what is wrong with people?

    September 4, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  2. Christian Copts!!!

    Just as we fought nazis ideologies..we should fight islam...don't u see they are similar in their teaching...they even still honour hitler till now in the middeleast and they call their children Hitler....!!!! wow I think they thought hitler is a prophet of peace!!! By they way hitler recruited islamic solidier from the bulkans in his SS guards and they were the ruthless of the SS guards...Read it ..it is in the history!!

    September 4, 2010 at 8:39 am |
    • Christian Arab-American

      To be clear, the jewish people lived a far better and more prsperous life under the Arabs as compared to under the Europeans. The Arabs never committed genocide against anyone in the world, including the jews. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about europeans. Education is very important nowadays. There are good and bad people in every religion.

      September 4, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  3. Donovan

    Seriously, what kind of idiot would build a mosque in Tennessee? Iv e been there only once and this is just a bad idea.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  4. Joe

    We'll see how patriotic everyone gets when more mosques pop up and they move in on your neighborhood. Do i think this particular religion is somehow more dangerous than any other? ABSOLUTELY. As usual everyone wants to dog the Americans for being bigots when we provide more freedoms here than their own d amn country ever will. Once again we are put on a pedestal of higher expectations than we will ever receive, but its still THIS country everyone and their brother is flocking to. If we Americans are so much lower in value than the rest of you than please put your hand down and pack your bags.....

    September 4, 2010 at 8:37 am |
    • Ike

      So Joe is it any more dangerous than Pedophile Priests? How about Christian Terrorists like the IRA? The KKK? Oh and how about songs like "Onward, Christian Soldiers" or "Saint Patrick's Breastplate" Palin has her Prayer WARRIORS. Yep Christianity the ONLy Religion of Peace & pascifism.

      September 4, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  5. My

    How to really combat the Muslims? Have more children than they do. Otherwise, by birth alone, they will soon out number, and when they do, too late all women who have fought for eqaul rights, will find they have none.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:33 am |
    • CC

      Combat Muslims? What?! There shouldn't be any combating ANYWHERE! Where the hell was all this talk before 9/11? There were still Muslims in America then and guess what? The people who attacked us came from another country entirely! The day you get elected into office for whatever godawful reason is the day this country is no longer America, and I really will leave it.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Well I guess this explains the Duggars! I'd better talk to Mr. Fizzy about our army tonight...

      September 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  6. lib pat

    If Christians were as critical of their own religion as they are of Islam, and judged it by the same standards, they would soon be agnostic. Now put the matches down. You're no better than they are.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  7. Christian Copts!!!

    you american are living in a bubble ...you are too tolerant with islam...you don't know the hidden attrocties...just look what they have done in the middle east in the name of Allah...look at Egypt...how they persecute the christian burn the churches and encourage of killing the christian,,,I see no one in egypt standing for the copts...or even lebanon or Irag...turkey ....Pakistan.....why should you be tolerant to them when they are intolerant towards you!! .hey wake up this is the real world full of hate...and islam is a religious of hate no matter what they appear with their masks of peace...just look up their teaching of killing the infidel and depriving the women rights....and encouraging it...deception is always been their game...Do you need another 9/11 to be sure they hate you!!! I say good ridence.....it is time to take out islam from america and europe before they corrupt the whole world with their hate teachings and killings!!

    September 4, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • CC

      Are you absolutely and completely isolated in your own stubborn beliefs that you are unable to look at history and not see ANY of the crap the Christians have done to everyone else??? Who started the Crusades that killed thousands of innocent people because the Christians thought that they were unholy and abominations? Think before you react with your emotions.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • steve

      CC this is WHY there is still a middle eastern peace problem. An outrageous inability to discuss current events in context.
      "Oh yeah? Well this stupid thing happened 700 years ago so they're all still the same!" You don't realize how ridiculous you sound.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:31 am |
    • Christian Copts!!!

      CC first of all I live in the middle east and I know what I am talking about....i am also a canadian....Second. the crusaders didn't follow the bible teaching when they set their crusades....where it is written in the bible to kill your openents ?....especially the christian beleives of the new testmant is love your enemies...read Mathew chapter 4-7 ...that is the teaching of christ...then go read the koran and see the teaching of hate to the Jews and christians and killing of anyone who is not in terms with you....read the parts when mohamed was in power in Meecca city time.....not before when he was weak...in medinet el mounwara time where his teaching was decepteive full of lies because he was weak and not in power. Do your own research from prominent resources....you will find what I write is true....Don't be ignorant!!!
      And last of all the crusades happened 900 years ago...I am talking about current events!!!!

      September 5, 2010 at 5:53 am |
  8. jhpg

    Who are the REAL terrorists? Christian Americans are such hypocrites.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:08 am |
    • steve

      Well, offhand I would say the real terrorists are the ones who flew into the big building with plane loads of screaming innocents. Maybe those guys that blow themselves up in crowds of shoppers. I know it's kind of too late to say "Hey, now there was a REAL terrorist." just after you be blow to little pieces by a guy sitting next to you on a bus, but something like that would seperate the REAL terrorists from what was probably a kid with a can of gas and just enough money left over for some matches.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:40 am |
    • Kate

      @Steve

      You want to use scale as a definition? There's no difference between a plane going into a building and someone setting a fire – they both have the same intent. It's still an attempt to cause fear and to get people to "change" through acts of violence, and an assault on their safety and security as a community – terrorism.

      Scale just defines the immediate suffering. Terrorism defines the reaction.

      Just sayin'

      September 5, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  9. realist

    The wolrs is already at war with Islam. As a former muslim, I can assure all of you that religion has no tolerance nonbelievers. It is part of their belief that is not only accpetable but condoned by God for them to lie to us about anything. The core belif of the religion is to spread Islam by any means including force. For them, it is their duty to either convert people of kill them. KIlling them, in their very clearly outlined belief is a favor to nonbelievers because it stops them from living a life of sin. It's part of the belief that there are 2 sides to the religion: the peaceful side and the holy warriors. The job of the warriors is ti kill non muslims. The peaceful ones are required to support the warriors in anyway needed. That includes creating safe havens and places to convert b oth warriors and peaceful ones. Rather then drone on, let me assure you again: they want you dead or converted. Period. They will lie to your face and say otherwise because it's their job. The only to stop this is to ban the religion from our country. It is a violent cult. The only other option is for americans to take theissue in their own hands and understand freedom of religion requires respponsible limitation. Otherwise we would have allow every religion to practice even if it preaches the molestation of children. As it is, you ignorant people are already allowing a religion that condones murder.

    September 4, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  10. iPwn

    Sad to say, but I can see this becoming a trend around the country.

    September 4, 2010 at 7:28 am |
  11. Alfonso

    Radical muslims have been attacking Christian churches in many countries across the world. So, sooner or later retribution will happen. It is not a surprise that finally mosques are being attacked. This will not be the last case. Until all people come to their senses, the violence will escalate. My gut feel ing is that the violence will escalate, as the radical musilms have a big momentum of unchecked violence.

    September 4, 2010 at 7:12 am |
  12. warsteiner

    Way to go hero's I wish more would make a stand

    September 4, 2010 at 6:55 am |
    • CC

      You're right, lets go burn a church next. Those people like fire waaaaaay too much for my comfort.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  13. Darketernal

    Allah is fake anyway. they should watch zeitgeist on youtube.

    September 4, 2010 at 6:52 am |
  14. Darketernal

    Of course they try to set it on fire, just to make them feel how the victims of 9/11 felt when those buildings where on fire. Who would be so stupid to put a building like that in an a sensetive enivorment like that. Its like nuking mekka, and then build a church on top of it.

    September 4, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  15. Abu Kareem Muhammad al-Jameel ibn Nidh'aal ibn Abdulaziz aal-Filisteeni

    You stupid infidels, you will soon see Islam dominate the WORLD.... USA will burn to the ground!!!

    September 4, 2010 at 5:53 am |
    • ProudMuslimAmerican

      Go to hell you so called extremist hatemonger! You are the reason muslims are suffering such idignity since you a handful of bigots have highjacked my religion. I am a muslim and an American and it will be a cold day in hell before I let any of you think about harming my country!!! Hate breeds hate and I refuse to hate based on a few misinformed fanatics who dont know any different than the hate being preached by the right wing media!!

      September 4, 2010 at 6:57 am |
    • CC

      Bad troll is bad. But hay, at least youre not trying to upstart a FAKE fear in people.

      September 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
    • steve

      I personally observed a large number of muslims from this area demonstrating in support of a terrorist organization loudly in the town square. I was there for about six months from out of state working on some IT projects. Can you imagine what would happen if a bunch of Americans moved to palestine and started protesting in town square about how great America is?
      I think a fire damaging a piece of construction equipment for their church would be the least of their worries.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • Kate

      @Steve

      Ever been to an Irish Bar in NYC or Boston recently? Check out their collection jars – then look up "Omagh bombing" for one example of where that money goes.

      Really want to go into all the groupings that support modern-day terrorism?

      September 5, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  16. Johnny

    Who remembers when Malaysia burnt down 3 churches and like completely destroyed them. Then seized and burnt 20,000 bibles... no one cared.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:44 am |
  17. PETE

    wOULD BE GREAT IF JUST STOP ALL cHURCHES AND mOSQUE FROM BEING bUILT.tHEN WE HAVE NO RWEASON FOR ANY OF THE bALNEY ABOUT bURNING uP SOME cONTRACTORS EARTH MOVERS. nO BUILDING OF ANY SUCH BUIKLDINGS FOR ANY SO CALLED RELIGEON,THEN BE NO REASON FOR AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIDIOTS TO TO RUINSOME ONES PROPERT
    jUST BE WHAT aMERICA WAS BUILT ON
    1XnATION UNDER gOD. fORGET THE bUILDING OF mEGA MONSTROUS bUILDING .iF PEOPLE WANT TO PRAY DO IT OUT DOORS uNDER NATURAL PLACES AND uNDER GROVES OD TREES. .tHEN NOTHING FOR ANYONE TO SCRAP ABOUT. tHE ONLY REAL THING i KNOW ABOUT MOSQUES IS THAT INiRAQ THEY STORED WEAPONS IN THEM ,THEN lITS MEN tHAT WANTED TO BECOME bIG sHOTS STARTED BLOWING uP mOSQUES. sO DON'T BUILD BUILDINGS THEN NO REASON FOR tERRORISTS TO EXIST.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:34 am |
  18. wiccian26

    The ignorance in this country astounds me!!! why do people still assume that they are better than their neighbor because of what interpritation of faith they pratice. As far as all Muslims being teorists and loving to fight, can you really be that stupid, Muslim is a religion just like christianity there are people that pratice the religion because they believe in it annd there are those few extremists who carry out the "letter" of the religion. For all you christians out there that hate muslims may i remind you of the spanish inquisitions or the salem witch trials or hell how about when christopher columbus got lost and showed up in the americas with a bible in one hand and a sword in another telling the incans to convert or die. THE ONLY WAY FOR US TO BEAT THIS AS A COUNTRY IS FOR ALL OF US TO REALIZE THAT WE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT GOD WE WORSHIP. PLEASE AMERICA STOP BEING SO STUPID AND WAKE UP. Should the world punish every american because a few were stupid, sould americans hate all muslims because a few extremists did something wrong? should the world hate and boycott germany because of what hitler did????
    NO WE SHOULD ALL REALIZE THE MISTAKES OF A FEW ARE THEIR FAULT AND NOT THE FAULT OF ALL.... PLEASE AMERICA GROW UP BEFORE WE REPEAT OUR OWN HORRIBLE PAST!!!

    September 4, 2010 at 5:29 am |
    • steve

      I personally observed around a hundred local muslims in the murfreesboro town square loudly protesting in support of a terrorist organization. It's a fairly easy assumption that thier religious center will be used to spread the terrorist mind set in my opinion. It seems at the very least obvious that this will not be the sort of place where condemnation of all acts of terrorism will be loudly preached or believed.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  19. recepivedik

    USA is Anti-islamic country. Muslim Brothers dont have Freedom of Religion in USA

    September 4, 2010 at 5:22 am |
  20. Bushido Bob

    My religion has no church or temple to burn; I am the House of God.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:15 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.