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Was the Fire At the Islamic Center of Tacoma a Hate Crime?

A fire broke out at the Islamic Center of Tacoma in University Place, Washington last Monday.

Authorities were called onto the scene as soon as it began before the evening prayer, Al-Maghrib. The fire caused significant water and smoke damage to the Center, especially to the roof. And while no one was injured, two people were inside when the fire flared up.

The Imam of the Islamic Center of Tacoma, Abdulhakim Mohamed, stated that the community was in shock and that the building couldn’t be used, with leaders not sure where the Center’s services will continue.

“We’re disappointed,” Abdulhakim Mohamed said. “God has his own plan. We do not know what that is yet. We plan what we can right now. Our main focus right now is to find an alternative place for our services.”

The Center offers all five daily prayers as well as nightly lectures and classes for children during the weekend. Mohamed also expressed his dismay over the fact that the Islamic Center is the only mosque in that immediate area and many elderly Muslims that live near the mosque don’t have the means to travel to the next closest mosque, which is about 40 minutes away.

“We’re scrambling to make sure that people have a place to pray,” Mohamed added. “Whether it’s at home or somewhere else, services can’t stop, especially at moments like this, when we get closer to God, not further.”

But all is not lost. While the fire could be caused mysteriously, the communities surrounding the mosque were nothing short of helpful. Several different Tacoma faith leaders offered up their own spaces, including churches, for the Islamic services that the Center provides.

Funds of over $225,000 were raised to rebuild the Center from an online fundraiser, and leaders within the Center were overwhelmed by the unconditional support and encouragement from the community.

While the fire’s source is still unclear, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) called for an investigation into a possible bias motive. “We are heartbroken to hear of this horrific attack on one of our houses of worship,” said CAIR-WA Executive Director Imraan Siddiqi in a statement.

“It is important that authorities investigate a possible bias motive in this apparent arson, as we have seen a disturbing trend of mosques, temples, and minority-led houses of worship being targeted by hate in recent years,” Siddiqi added.

An arson investigation has begun by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Asiya is a writer and journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.