Authorities Investigating Fire Attack Against Queens Islamic Center, 3 Other Sites
Monday, January 02, 2012
Police on Monday were working to determine whether a series of suspected arson attacks against an Islamic cultural center and three other locations in Queens were linked, and were investigating the incidents as bias crimes against Muslims.
No one was injured in the four Sunday evening attacks, though some of the damage may be extensive. No arrests have been made. Police said at least three Molotov cocktails were thrown, though some did not explode.
At 8 p.m., a bottle was thrown at a counter at a bodega. Ten minutes later, a nearby house was damaged after possibly being set on fire; it took 65 firefighters 40 minutes to bring the blaze under control, authorities said.
At 8:44 p.m., the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation was targeted, damaging a door, authorities said.
Meesam Razvi, a spokesman for the foundation, said at least 75 people were at the Sunday evening prayer service at the building, when a molotov cokctail was thrown at the door and "to be very honest, we were taken aback when it happened last night, because, of course, we were not expecting it. There wasn't any indication that anything like this would happen."
The foundation said in a statement the Molotov cocktail was aimed at the main entrance. "We thank Allah (SWT) that no major damage or injury was caused by the blast," the foundation said in a statement. "The foundation reiterates its resolve to continue to serve the community and to strive to bring love where there is hatred, light where there is darkness and enlightenment where there is ignorance."
And at 10:14 p.m., two bottles were thrown - but did not explode - at a house police said was used for Hindu worship services.
Police said possible suspects were believed to have fled the scenes of the third and fourth attacks. They were looking at surveillance video obtained from the bodega and the attack on one of the houses.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police are also looking at possible connections to incidents outside New York City.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the incidents.
"The four reported attacks on Sunday night go against everything we stand for as New Yorkers and Americans," Cuomo said in a statement. "Attacks such as this have no place in our open and inclusive society."
CAIR called on police and Muslim institutions to step up security measures around mosques.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the advocacy group, said CAIR recently called on the FBI to investigate threats targeting mosques posted on an anti-Islam blog called "Bare Naked Islam."
One comment on the site read: "Throw 10 Molotov cocktails into these mosques and burn them down," according to Hooper. By Monday, the comment appeared to have been taken down by blog operator WordPress.com.
CAIR noted that in the past year, numerous mosques or mosque construction sites around the country have been targeted by arson, vandalism or threats.
With reporting from Yasmeen Khan