On Huffington Post, Joseph Shoji Lachman -- who is described on the website as a donor relations specialist for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- wrote that during the pre-dawn hours today, the Islamic Center of Eastside in Bellevue, Washington was burned to the ground. He wrote that the incident “appears to be an act of domestic terrorism and act of cowardly Islamophobia.”
Lachman added that the mosque has been subjected to acts of vandalism over the last six months. He noted that Seattle has a reputation as a progressive city, and added that “it is not immune to the wave of Islamophobia seen throughout much of the nation and the rest of the world in recent years.” The other most recent incident at the mosque occurred on January 6, in which a man threatened members of the mosque.
“We want our Muslim brothers and sisters know we stand with them,” said Bellevue Mayor John Stokes at a news conference. “The police chief said that his department “will not stand for this type of act,” and added that police do not believe that the fire amounted to a terrorist act or a coordinated attack on a house of worship.
Lachman called for donations to restore the burned-out mosque. “Don’t let hate win. Join in solidarity marches. Visit a local mosque and get to know local leaders in the Muslim American community. Report hate crimes if you see them. Be an ally even in small ways on a regular basis.”
He claimed that people of “Middle Eastern descent fear for their lives simply because of their appearance and religion,” in Seattle. To that category, he added Sikhs as members of the “Middle Easter [sic] American community.” Sikhs actually originate in India, not the Middle East. Lachman wrote, “Please consider donating to help rebuild the Islamic Center of Eastside, a registered nonprofit.”
Calling for support for CAIR, Lachman described the organization as a network of nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to providing free legal services to Muslims in the US who have suffered some kind of discrimination, whether it is at work, at school, or on the street, or anywhere else. It was CAIR that claimed to speak for the family of the Muslim terrorists who killed 14 and wounded 22 in an attack on a government facility in San Bernardino, California. CAIR has been linked by several members of Congress to the Hamas terrorist organization, despite its disavowals of endorsing terrorism.
Police said they have arrested a 37-year-old homeless man on charges of second-degree arson at a parking lot near the mosque. The suspect had been arrested in the past in connection with another incident at the mosque.
Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of CAIR’s Washington state chapter, urged people to not rush to conclusions about the motivations of the suspect.
On January 12, a 36-year-old man was charged in connection to an earlier incident at the mosque. Kamal Samater was charged this week with malicious harassment, a hate crime, and felony harassment for allegedly threatening to kill members of the mosque and declaring “there is no place in America for Muslims.” Kamal Samater is a Muslim. The incident in which he was involved happened on January 6.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.