Sunday, February 10, 2008

Every Long Journey Begins With A Small Step

WKRN - A mosque in Columbia Tennessee was set on fire and destroyed, and investigators say it could be a hate crime.

The Columbia Fire Department says the fire was reported around 5:30 Saturday morning, and by the time they arrived, the mosque was already completely engulfed in flames.

Members of this mosque say, not only was it incredibly painful for them to show up and watch the building burn to the ground, but there were hate remarks, racial slurs and swasticas spray painted on the side.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms say they think whoever started the fire did it on purpose.

Jim Cavanaugh of ATF said, "When you have swasticas painted on the side of the mosque, that weren't there two hours prior to the fire, it's pretty unlikely that an electrical fire started at the same time."

Rasmi Awad watched firefighters tear down what's left of the burned out mosque, a building that was once a place of worship, but may now be unsalvagable.

"We hope we can go on, go to another place. We hope we can find who did it, and at least, make it safer to the other people," Awad, a member of the mosque, said.

Only about ten families attended the mosque -- but for them, it's their holy place. The mosque has been in Columbia for seven years, and members say they will try and pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Daoud Abudiab, who also attended the mosque, said, "This has been a special place for us, for my family, our friends here. And it's just sad. You'd expect this from a tornado, not from people."

"I have three children... they were born in Columbia, and this is the only place of worship that they've known here. It's hard to explain to them why this happened," Abudiab added.