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Cause of Joplin mosque fire is under investigation - KOAM TV 7

Arson not ruled out

Cause of Joplin mosque fire is under investigation

Posted: Updated: Aug 6, 2012 05:10 PM

Authorities say it's to early to tell how an early morning fire started at a Joplin, Missouri mosque.  The fire at the Islamic Center of Joplin is receiving attention from Islamic organizations across the country looking for answers.

In a news conference this afternoon authorities said they have yet to determine the cause of the fire.  In case the incident is ruled an arson, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has brought around 30 extra agents from Kansas City to Joplin.  Also, if ruled an arson, a $15,000 reward from a July 4 incident would extend to this morning's fire as well.

The Council on American Islamic Relations is already offering a $10,000 reward for leading information to what caused today's fire.

Make a donation to the Islamic Society of Joplin
Mail a check payable to "The Islamic Society of Joplin" to:

The Islamic Society of Joplin
PO Box 3164
Joplin, MO 64803

or

Commerce Bank
211 Main Street
Joplin, MO 64801

Members will continue to pray and hope
While the month of Ramadan continues, even though they no longer have a place to worship, a leader of the Joplin Islamic Center says friends and family will continue to pray together five times a day.

"We remember what God says in our scripture, everything belongs to God and everything will return to Him," says Imam Lahmuddin.  "He has loaned this place to us for more than four years and he take it back.  Maybe he will replace our place with a new and better place, we don't know.  But that is the hope and that is the promise."

About 50 families belong to the mosque, which opened in 2007.

A total loss
Fire crews were called to a fire this morning at around 3:30 a.m. at the Islamic Center of Joplin on 1302 South Black Cat Road.  Crews were on the scene within 10 to 15 minutes, but the building is a total loss.

"On a normal day I close the door and close the gate and I expected to return the next morning at 5 o'clock to do the morning prayer," says Imam Lahmuddin.  "But unfortunately, at 3:50 this morning I got a call and I sensed something bad and I drove by to see what happened and I saw the fire, all over the building."

"I'm incredibly saddened to hear about the fire that destroyed the Joplin mosque this morning," U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri says in a statement released to the media.  "If it turns out that this situation involves arson once again, this kind of action is absolutely unacceptable."

There were no injuries in today's fire.

Not the first fire
On July 4, 2012 a man threw an ignited object onto the roof of the building.  The Center's security cameras caught the act on video but the suspect has not been arrested.  Authorities have put a full-time investigator on that case.  A $15,000 reward has also been offered for any information regarding the July 4 fire.

"We can see that very clearly, he did throw the fire on the roof to set fire to the building, on purpose I believe," says Imam Lahmuddin.  "But this time we don't have any cameras.  All the cameras got burned, all the footage got burned, so we don't have anything to give to the authorities in the investigation."

In 2008, a year after the center opened, the Center's sign was set on fire.  Authorities say someone has shot the new sign with an air gun and that motorists have driven by yelling slurs at members of the Center, including children.

The Council on American Islamic Relations says that just recently crimes committed towards Islam, Muslim and Sikh have increased.

"Within the last couple of years, particularly following the controversy over the Park 51 Muslim Community Center in Manhattan that we've seen a real spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society," says Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

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