Mosque torched in US; homeless man arrested

Mosque torched in US; homeless man arrested

Mosque torched in US; homeless man arrested

A 1970s-vintage mosque has been torched in the US city of Seattle and the police have arrested a 37-year-old homeless man, who had previous run-ins with worshippers there, in connection with the incident.

Police believe a fire at a Bellevue mosque yesterday was set by the man but they said there was no evidence of a hate crime. "Nor is there any connection to recent vandalism at a Redmond mosque," Police Chief Steve Mylett was quoted as saying by The Seattle Times.

Bellevue police and firefighters responded to the Islamic Centre of Eastside after a witness reported flames coming from the 1970s-vintage, wooden building. The fire destroyed the north side of the mosque. Nobody was inside, the report said.

Police found the homeless man, lying on the ground at a nearby parking lot, and approached him initially to see if he was injured, said Mylett. He didn't appear intoxicated, officers reported.

Charging papers, for second-degree arson, were expected to be filed against the man on Tuesday, Hogan said.

Last year, the man came to the mosque on occasion and said he wanted to pray, Imam Faizel Hassan said. But the man used profanities and created conflicts that led the mosque to exclude him, Hassan said.

"Very few people knew him. He is homeless. I would not describe him as Muslim," the Hassan said.

The mosque, the only one in Bellevue, can draw 100 people for the five daily prayers and 1,000 on Fridays.

"We want our Muslim brothers and sisters to know we stand with them," Mayor John Stokes said during the news conference.

Firefighters salvaged "many holy books that were important to the mosque," Stokes said.

Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has urged people to not jump to conclusions about motive. "We need to learn more," he said.

In the past week, in an apparently unrelated incident, an Auburn man who had allegedly threatened to kill members of the Islamic Center of Eastside was charged with malicious harassment, a hate crime.

Kamal Samater, 36, was arrested on January 6 in the mosque's parking lot, after allegedly telling a man in the lot that he was "going to assassinate every one" at the mosque, and yelling "There is no place in America for Muslims."