By Drew Farmer –
Worshipers at the Islamic Center of Tucson called 911 on Wednesday morning after finding a recycling bin on fire outside the mosque. The Tucson Fire Department put out the fire after responding to the call, and no one was hurt in the incident.
Although the Islamic Center has security cameras, they were damaged in storms earlier this year and are set to be replaced. The cameras were unable to pick up any images of the possible perpetrators of the fire, which is thought to have been set by someone in the early hours of July 13, according to a spokesman for the center.
Tucson public safety officials have initiated an investigation into the fire. The Islamic Center building was not damaged, only the recycling bin that the fire was set in. Nearby trash receptacles not belonging to the center also were unharmed, leading some to fear an arsonist targeted the center.
Speaking to TucsonNewsNow.com, Islamic Center of Tucson spokesman Mahmoud Obagi said that members of the center are now worried for their safety. He believes that Islamophobia is to blame for the fire.
This is not the first time the Islamic Center of Tucson has seen problems in 2016. In January, residents in the Sol Y Luna apartments, a complex that overlooks the mosque, faced eviction for throwing objects into the center’s parking lot. Video evidence caught residents hurling the items onto the ground below. Many of the items thrown onto the center’s premises were alcohol bottles and cans. In addition, it was noted that racial slurs were used by residents.
In November 2014, four University of Arizona students were evicted from the same apartment complex – which was under the name Level at that time – for throwing rubbish off balconies and into the Islamic Center’s parking lot.
Although the incidents are unlinked at this time, the fire in the recycling bin cannot be ignored after the previous incidents.
“The Islamic Center is a center for everyone, not just Muslims,” Obagi told TucsonNewsNow.com. “The Islamic Center is here to stay. It’s been part of this community for a very long time.”
Tucson law enforcement has been asked to patrol the area around the mosque more regularly by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In addition, the group has asked the police department to provide a thorough investigation on what caused the fire.
In April, Tucson.com reported that a new mosque for the city’s northwest side is in the developmental stages. The Islamic Center of Tucson, which is home to 8,000 to 10,000 Muslim worshippers, has been limited by its space, thanks in part to the University of Arizona’s continued growth. The new mosque would provide relief at the Islamic Center’s current location and possibly lessen friction with the local residents.