TOLEDO — A community in Ohio was in shock this week when the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo was set on fire, resulting in the arrest of 52-year-old Randy Linn of Indiana, who was charged on Wednesday with two counts of arson and one count of aggravated burglary. The incident marks just the latest in a string of attacks on the religion of Islam in the U.S.
|Captured on surveliance, Randy Linn allegedly walked into the Toledo mosque and poured gasoline in the middle of the mens prayer room, causing both fire and water damage.|
According to authorities, Linn allegedly poured gasoline on the second floor of the building, in a section where the men's prayer area is located. Women also pray on the same floor in the facility, but in an area that's seperated by a low divider.
Despite Sundays usually being one of the busiest days at the center, with Sunday school held for younger children in the earlier hours of the day, no one was near the prayer room during the time of the incident. When the fire broke out, the sprinkler system in the mosque was able to put it out it time before it was too late, but plenty of damage had already been done. The extent of both the smoke damage and water damage has the center estimating that it will be closed for up to three months to do maintenance work, but local organizations in Toledo have reached out to the Islamic community in an interfaith effort. Reverend Steve Anthony, the executive director of the Toledo area of Ministries, who represent over 125 churches, had a message for the Muslim community in Toledo.
"Any attack on a house of worship, no matter what faith, is deplorable and should be condemned," Anthony stated to news agencies. "And there's no room for that in a pluralistic society. We should respect each other's houses of worship."
Leaders from the mosque have stated that they are grateful for the outreach they have been receiving since the incident occurred, which has garnered national media attention.
"All the support we get is very welcome because if you are going through a tragedy and you have a friend who is holding your hand it means a lot," said S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the United Muslim Association of Toledo.
The attacks on Islam seem to be reaching a new peak as of late. According to Thom Harmann, host of The Big Picture, the number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled between 2010 and 2011. Since Aug. 5, nine mosques or places of worship have been vandalized or attacked across the U.S.. Abed Ayoub, the legal Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), says that with the height of Islamophobia in full force, mosque's across the country should increase their security during peak hours.
|Fire damage inside the prayer room of the Islamic |
Center of Greater Toledo.
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Despite the temporary close, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is still being heavily guarded to make sure no one else gets close to the property. It is estimated that the fire can cost up to over $1 million in repairs. With Linn in custody, no information has yet to be released in regards to his motives. According to sources, he has remained silent and has hired an attorney to represent him.
The incident won't mark the first time the center has been a target either. Shorty after 9/11, a gun shot was fired through one of the mosque's windows, scaring the Muslim community at the time. In a brief phone interview with Cherrefe Kadri, the Vice President of the Mosque’s council board, she stated that despite the arson that took place on Sunday, the Muslim community in Toledo still feels safe and at home, stating that they are looking to move foward.
"Here in our area, our community has been around for so long that we don’t usually experience any form of prejiduce or anti-Muslim behaviour. We actually experience the complete opposite, we have a very strong and active interfaith community. The Muslim community here continues to grow and people know us. We are good neighbors and our doors are always open," Kadri stated.
Linn was reportedly arrested in Fort Wayne Indiana without incident. He has since waived extradition and was brought back to Ohio by the Perrysburg Police on Wednesday. He is currently being held in the Wood County Jail on $400,000 bond.