Authorities believe a Friday fire at the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley mosque may have been intentional; they have detained a “person of interest.”
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) said the suspect’s name is being withheld “pending further investigation.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Riverside County Fire Department says a fire “was reported at 12:09 p.m. Friday inside the mosque in the 84600 block of Avenue 49 in Coachella.” The fire was contained in the lobby, “but smoke caused damage throughout the 1,800-square-foot mosque.”
The continuing investigation into the incident involves not only the RCSD, but also “Cal Fire and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit worries the mosque may have been targeted for religious reasons in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack. He said:
It’s horribly lamentable that we would paint any group as undesirables based on the actions of an extremely small number of radical folks that don’t represent the religion in any way. If in fact it was done with the mosque as a target … it’s reprehensible, and the people who perpetrated that act should be treated the way we would any other terrorist.
Ojaala Ahmad is the communications coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles. Although Ahmad admitted that no one knows the motives behind the fire, he said it does “show how real ‘Islamophobia’ is, how scary and how threatening it can become.”
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