Arsonist attacks Escondido mosque, leaves note referencing New Zealand massacre
An arsonist attempted to burn down the Islamic Center of Escondido mosque early Sunday, leaving behind a note referencing the recent New Zealand mosque massacre that left 50 people dead.
Seven people were inside the mosque in the early morning when they reported hearing strange sounds and smells outside of the building. One individual who was awake at the time spotted the flames, giving the group inside enough time to immediately subdue the flames before it created any serious damage.
Fire officials who inspected the area quickly noted that the fire was intentionally set through the use of an "accelerant" to light the flame. A note was also found that referenced the widely-covered shooting at the Linwood Islamic Centre in New Zealand that shocked the world just a week ago. The police are investigating the crime as an arson and clear hate crime.
Yussef Miller, a spokesperson for the Escondido mosque, cautioned community members to stay vigilant through this current climate of intense Islamophobia.
“Everyone is on edge here today,” Miller said. “When they connected it to New Zealand, it gave us a more real fear that something outlandish might happen.”
The mosque cancelled the Sunday morning pray due to the investigation, but a prayer vigil was scheduled Sunday night to show support for those who wished to participate in the evening prayer. The Executive Director of the San Diego office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Dustin Craun, who was present at the vigil, called for the need of increased police protection at Islamic centers:
“It is disturbing enough that some sick individual would attempt to burn a house of worship to the ground, but referencing the slayings in New Zealand is beyond the pale. While the majority of humanity has responded to the tragedy to draw closer to one another and refute hatred, a violent and hate-filled minority seeks further divisions.”
The San Diego police department said officers planned to keep a watchful eye on mosques in the area during this time.