Less than a month after the Christchurch mosque shootings, in which 50 lives were stolen in the worst terrorist attack in the history of New Zealand, comes the news that an Escondido, Calif., mosque is being investigated as the scene of a hate crime.
According to Buzzfeed News, the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque, located about 30 miles outside San Diego, was set aflame by an arsonist at approximately 3:15 am on Sunday.
Thankfully, no injuries were reported, as the fire was extinguished by worshippers who had been staying overnight to perform itikaf—the practice of secluding oneself in the mosque to pray. As such, the mosque only suffered minimal damage.
However, upon arriving on the scene, officers discovered graffiti referencing the New Zealand mosque terror attacks. Escondido officer Lt. Chris Lick declined to elaborate on the graffiti, only offering that it “mentioned the New Zealand incidents—let’s leave it at that.”
Karem Elhams, who founded a local Islamic center and has been an invaluable member of the local Muslim community for over 30 years, told BuzzFeed News he believes “an Islamophobe poured gasoline on the side of the building.”
“Fortunately, he ran off when people inside the mosque preparing for morning prayer heard some noise outside and went to see what was happening and were able to scare him off,” he said.
As of yet, no suspects have been identified and the FBI is assisting with the investigation.
“It is disturbing enough that some sick individual would attempt to burn a house of worship to the ground,” Craun said. “But referencing the slayings in New Zealand is beyond the pale.”
In a statement from CAIR’s local chapter, Craun has requested that anyone with information leading to the arrest of the guilty party please come forward.
A spokesperson for the mosque declined to comment.