JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Members of Joplin's Islamic community whose mosque was destroyed in a recent fire hope to call on the camaraderie that the southwest Missouri city displayed in the wake of last year's devastating tornado.
"This great community is not going to be taken by fear," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Awad said he admired how Joplin responded to the May 22, 2011 tornado that killed 161 people and destroyed a broad swath of the southwest Missouri city.
"In that spirit we're coming together," Awad said at a news conference. "Joplin should be united. Joplin should not let anyone divide it."
The Islamic Society of Joplin's building was a total loss after a fire early Monday. Investigators from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, as well as the Jasper County Sheriff's department have been investigating to determine the cause of the fire, the second fire this summer at the mosque. The ATF said Thursday in an email there were no updates on the status of the tests being conducted on Monday's fire, which has been labeled suspicious.
A fire at the mosque July 4 damaged the building's roof and has been determined to be arson, but no charges have been filed. The FBI has released a video of a suspect caught on surveillance video and said a $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in that fire.
No injuries were reported in either fire.
Awad and others said members of the mosque hope to rebuild, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/PHimgc ). An online fund for rebuilding the mosque had raised nearly $150,000 by Thursday.
Hina Qidwai, a member of the mosque, said at the news conference that the mosque hosted workers from various groups, including AmeriCorps and Catholic Charities, who came to Joplin to help after the tornado.
"The whole town came together," Qidwai said. "Color didn't matter. Culture didn't matter. Religion didn't matter. It was just humanity."
Lane Roberts, Joplin's chief of police, also said Wednesday that although the mosque, which is located just outside the city, was not in his jurisdiction, the fire angered him.
"What has occurred here is a crime against your faith," Roberts said. "It's a crime against everything this country represents."