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The FBI is investigating a fire at mosque-owned structure in Dearborn, Michigan as a possible hate crime. Graffiti including the word “Arabs” was found at the scene of the fire, along with indicators that it was arson. The Michigan chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged the FBI to investigate the fire as possibly boas-related, citing the graffiti and similar mosque incidents in Maryland, California and Minnesota. But mosque’s imam thinks the fire was probably set as a teenage prank, and the Dearborn Police Department is skeptical that it was a hate crime.
The fire broke out on Tuesday morning at Dearborn Woods Community Center, a former Presbyterian church site, damaging a storage facility. The building, which sits less than 20 feet from the American Muslim Center, was also spray painted with graffiti, including a phallic doodle and the word “Arabs.” The American Muslim Center bought the site two years ago, using it for events like weddings and funerals.
CAIR-MI Director Dawud Walid informed the FBI about the fire, urging the agency to investigate it as a possible hate-crime. "If a bias motive is revealed in this case, the FBI should add its resources to those of local law enforcement authorities to help bring the perpetrators to justice," Walid said.
Dearborn police detectives, however, are skeptical of a bias-motive, saying the obscene graffiti was not present when they first checked the scene of the fire on Tuesday. According to Sgt. Ken Muscat, "I don't know that I see anything here to turn this into a racially motivated crime.” Imam Mohamad Mardini says that the Dearborn community is very welcoming, and that the fire was probably set by teenage delinquents.
Whatever the cause, the incident marks the second time this year that a Dearborn mosque site was vandalized with graffiti. CAIR-MI is asking the Muslim community to review safety procedures outlined in its Muslim Community Safety Kit.