Connecticut mosque fire was intentional, say police

The fire, which broke out at the beginning of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan, has rendered the structure uninhabitable

David I. Klein
New York
Tuesday 14 May 2019 22:41 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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A mosque was set on fire in Connecticut in what police are investigating as an act of arson.

The fire broke out around 4pm, at the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven, where it was first noticed by a visiting Imam who was reading inside the sanctuary.

He immediately called Haydar Elevli, president of the Connecticut chapter of the Diyanet Centre of America. “I dropped everything and ran there,” Mr Elevli said in an interview with the New York Times.

It was the eighth day of Ramadan, the holy month which Muslims mark with increased prayer and fasting. Only a few hours later Muslim families would have gathered together at the mosque to break their daily dawn to dusk fasts for a community meal known as an iftar.

Though the motive is still unclear and no arrests have yet been made, police are investigating the incident and believe the act to have been intentional.

Elevli called the damage "not too bad." Though the fire has rendered the structure uninhabitable, repairs are possible. An online fundraiser for the community had raised more than $60,000 by Tuesday afternoon.

Elevli told the Times that he has been inundated with calls of support from other religious leaders.

“Thank God all the churches and synagogues are calling us, willing to help, willing to share their space,” he said.

The Diyanet Centre of America, The umbrella organisation which oversees the mosque, and according to their website, more than two dozen others through out the country is affiliated with Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, known more commonly by the Turkish word "Diyanet". 

Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denounced the incident, and called for swift justice. “Our only consolation is that there was no loss of life,” Çavuşoğlu tweeted.

Though the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven hadn't received any direct threats, the past two months have seen a spate of attacks against religious centres and houses of worship around the country, including the arson of three predominantly black churches in Louisiana and the Poway synagogue shooting which occurred on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Another Connecticut mosque, the Muhammad Islamic Centre of Greater Hartford had received a phone call from someone who threatened to burn it down.

In response to the fire, Connecticut lawmakers announced a plan to set aside $5m in state bonding to help houses of worship with security costs, the Hartford Courant reported.

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