Mosque attacks common nationwide; imam takes incident in stride

JOPLIN, Mo. — One simply has to type the words “mosque fires” into a search engine to determine how common fires like the one Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque are.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have tracked dozens of fires, firebombings and incidents of vandalism at mosques around the country over the past five years.

A few examples:

• A mosque in Queens, N.Y., was firebombed in January with worshippers inside. There were no injuries.

• An arson attack on a Houston, Texas, mosque was reported in May 2011.

• Construction equipment was set afire at the site of a mosque being built in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in August 2010.

• An Oct. 31, 2011, arson fire at a mosque in Wichita, Kan., caused an estimated $120,000 in damage.

• Closer to Joplin, someone in April 2011 burned three copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and left a threatening letter near the entrance of the Islamic Center of Springfield mosque. The anonymous letter claimed that Muslims would “stain the earth” and that Islam wouldn’t survive.

The mosque had earlier been vandalized with graffiti.

An FBI agent last month said there have been positive developments in the Springfield case.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday called for state and federal agencies to investigate the Joplin mosque fire as a possible hate crime.