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After String of Arson and Vandalism Incidents, Joplin Mosque Burns to the Ground: Cause Still Undetermined

FBI supplies resources to investigation, offers $15,000 reward for help in July 4, 2012 fire at same site
Imam of Joplin Mosque
Imam Lahmuddin reacts Monday after a fire destroyed the Joplin Islamic Center. (Photo by T. Rob Brown of the Joplin Globe/AP, used with permission from the Joplin Globe)

The only mosque in Joplin, Missouri has burned to the ground. The cause of the fire is still unknown. As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, the loss of property leaves the Islamic community without a place of worship in its most sacred time of the year:Ramadan.

 The imam of the mosque, Dr. Lahmuddin Lahmuddin, had only finished leading the special “Taraweeh” night prayers a few hours before he was awakened by a phone call from the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department. That prayer takes place every night around 10:00 during the month of Ramadan.

Lahmuddin got in his car and started driving.

“I could see the smoke from about two miles when I drove to the mosque. So, when I saw that, my heart [was] pounding, and I hoped it’s not from the mosque. But it was from the mosque,” Lahmuddin said.

This is the third time the Islamic Center in Joplin has had to deal with fires on its property.One month ago, a man was caught on camera throwing a burning object onto the mosque’s roof. The FBI is offering a $15,000 reward for the arrest and indictment of those responsible for that fire. You can see a picture of that man by going to www.fbi.gov/kansascity.

Bridgett Patton is a spokeswoman for the FBI out of Kansas City.

“If it is determined that this fire was deliberately set, then we will actively investigate to see if there is any connection or relationship to the fire that occurred at the center on July 4 of this year,” Patton said.

The Islamic Center of Joplin hosted volunteers from around the country after the Joplin tornado.

This week’s fire was a total loss. Imam Lahmuddin says he doesn’t know where his congregation with gather to worship now. Typically during Ramadan, Muslims gather every evening at the mosque to break their fasts before praying into the night.

The fire comes less than two weeks before the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which is next Friday.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.

ANCHOR TAG:   According to a press release, The Council of Churches of the Ozarks has stepped in to collect donations for the Islamic community in Joplin.   Donations by check can be made out and sent to: Council of Churches, PO Box 3937, Springfield, MO 65808, with the words "Joplin Islamic Community" in the memo. That information is also on our website.

The Council asks those of faith to pray for those who are suffering as a result of this fire, and to work for – quote – “greater religious freedom and collaboration in the Ozarks.”

According to that same release, the Council of Churches is also planning a demonstration with the Interfaith Alliance of the Ozarks in support of their Islamic neighbors in Joplin. Details on that demonstration have not yet been announced.

LINKS:  

Click here to experience a 2009 Friday prayer service at the Joplin mosque

Click here for the FBI's picture of the suspect of the July 4, 2012 attack on the mosque