Hundreds in Joplin, Missouri, rally for Muslims and mosque

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – A rally for Muslims in Joplin, Missouri, drew hundreds of people on Saturday night, nearly three weeks after a local mosque was destroyed by a fire which members of the Islamic community suspect was a hate crime, the organizer of the event said.

The gathering at a city park was promoted on a Facebook page as a way to show “that love is stronger than fear or hatred.” Organizers saw the rally in part as a giving-back to the local Muslim community because their mosque was a relief center for victims of the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, which took 161 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 buildings.

The fire that destroyed the Joplin mosque happened the morning after a white supremacist shot dead six worshipers at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, then killed himself after he was wounded by police. Police and Sikh temple members speculated that he might have mistakenly thought Sikhs were Muslims.

About $406,000 has been raised to rebuild the Joplin mosque. The donations have far exceeded the goal of $250,000, said Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Joplin.