California Imam Dies in 'Suspicious' Fire
Anaheim , CA : The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) July 2 called on the FBI “to investigate a Yermo imam's death as a possible hate crime after the Muslim religious leader's body was found inside a residence that burned down this past weekend.” A CAIR message stated:
Family members told CAIR-LA that Imam Ali Mohammed, who founded a mosque in Yermo, went on Saturday afternoon to clean hate graffiti scrawled inside an unoccupied house that was once the family's home, but he never returned. The family had recently moved out of the house because of alleged anti-Muslim harassment and prejudice by individuals in the area. According to authorities, an individual who was suspected of harassing the family was sent to prison in 2008.
Local law enforcement authorities are calling the explosion and fire "suspicious" but have not yet made a determination as to the cause of the blaze. An autopsy is being performed today (July 2).
SEE: Former Mosque Owner Dies in Residential Fire
Graffiti written on the walls inside the house prior to the fire reportedly stated: "F*** you Arab," "KKK, sand n**ger," "go home Arab." An American flag and a Nazi swastika were also drawn on the walls.
SEE: Hate Graffiti at Yermo House
"My father was a deeply caring person who worked toward building peace, unity and harmony among residents of the High Desert," said Hadie Mohammed, the imam's son. "During this time of immense grief, my family is grateful for the condolences and community support and pray that those who committed this horrific crime will face justice."
The mosque founded by the imam and located near the burned house was the target of an arson attack in 2007.
Imam Ali Mohammed was a respected community leader in the High Desert and helped establish other mosques in the area.
"We are deeply troubled by the tragic death of Imam Ali Mohammed and ask that the FBI and local law enforcement authorities immediately conduct an investigation into the possibility of a bias motive in his death," said CAIR-LA Staff Attorney Ameena Qazi. "We hope that any perpetrators are brought to justice and punished to the full extent of the law."
Last month, a mosque in Cypress, Calif., was vandalized with graffiti, which stated: "F**k You, "we're going to kill you," and "US Military is going to kill you all." Police are treating the vandalism at the Cypress mosque as a hate crime.
SEE: Islamic Center Tagged with Graffiti
Earlier today (July 2), CAIR's south Florida chapter (CAIR-SFL) called on the FBI to investigate a possible bias motive for vandalism at a mosque in that state.
SEE: Vandals Smash Windows of West Kendall Mosque (Miami Herald)
CAIR offers advice for reacting to anti-Muslim hate crimes in its "
Muslim Community Safety Kit."
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties organization, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.