On Jan. 7, the Islamic Center of Lake Travis in Austin, which had been under construction, caught on fire. A week later, on Jan. 14, the Islamic Center of Eastside in Bellevue, Washington, burned.
Two weeks after that, on Jan. 27, several hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, a fire destroyed the Islamic Center of Victoria in Texas.
Then, this past Friday, Feb. 24, a small blaze broke out at the front entrance of the Daarus Salaam Mosque near Tampa.
Authorities have ruled that three of the four fires were caused by arson. An official at the Travis County Fire Marshal told BuzzFeed News that the investigation into the cause of the fire at the Islamic Center of Lake Travis remains open.
“We’ve never seen four mosques burned within seven weeks of each other,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups around the country. “It’s part of a whole series of dramatic attacks on Muslims.”
The mosque fires come amid increased fear about hate crimes against minority religious groups. In recent weeks, scores of bomb threats were called into Jewish community centers and schools around the country and graveyards in Jewish cemeteries in three states were vandalized. On Sunday, somebody threw a rock through a window of the Masjid Abu Bakr mosque in Denver. In Redmond, Washington, vandals destroyed the Muslim Association of Puget Sound mosque’s entrance sign on two occasions within two months of the election. Two days after the inauguration, a woman shattered the windows of the Davis Islamic Center in California, and left strips of raw bacon on a door handle. In January, a white nationalist fatally shot six people at a mosque in Québec City. Last week, a white man shot two Indian men, one fatally, at a Kansas bar after making racial slurs, questioning their immigration status, and shouting, “Get out of my country.”
“The short answer is we haven’t seen anything like this in the past,” Potok said, referring to the overall surge in reported hate crimes across the country. “This is my 18th year here and I haven’t seen anything remotely like this.”
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