On the night of September 11th and the eve of Eid al-Adha, a mosque in Florida, the Islamic Centre of Fort Pierce, was attacked by an arsonist. Mosque attendees were unable to attend celebratory Eid prayers there the following morning.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s office suspected the arson to be deliberate. Security cameras on location showed a man riding a motorbike to the mosque and running away from the building as it went up in flames. After releasing the security footage, announcing a reward, and speaking to members of the community, authorities were able to trace the suspect to his home. Joseph Michael Schreiber was taken into custody and is being held until his trial. His social media is full of Islamophobic rhetoric, and a motorbike similar to the one seen in the security footage was parked outside his house. Other physical evidence was found in Schreiber’s home that proved his likely involvement in the arson, but the police have not disclosed more details.
The attack is being treated as a hate crime, which in combination with arson could potentially lead to 30 years in prison for Schreiber. He may also face civil rights violation charges. His trial awaits him, but Schreiber is no stranger to crime. He has faced multiple charges in the past, including armed robbery and grand theft.
The rapid work of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s office, as well as the State Fire Marshall’s office is commendable. How Schreiber is sentenced remains to be seen, but it is comforting to know that action has been taken. As Islamophobia rises in the United States, being supported by the institutions built to protect is of the utmost importance. It’s a relief to know that this crime is being treated as a hate crime instead of being dismissed. Hate against Muslims is real and it is dangerous. The least that can be done is to call it what it is — a hate crime — instead of forming excuses or erasing the deeper layers of such heinous crimes.
Here’s to hoping justice is served.