A fire started at a central Florida mosque early Friday morning was arson, local officials have confirmed. One of the side doors of the Islamic Society of New Tampa was found with bullet holes, with a rope pushed through to start the fire, according to a regular visitor who arrived at the mosque after hearing there was a fire.
Hillsborough Country Fire Rescue later confirmed that the incident had been ruled as arson.
Arshadd Malik, who described the scene, said he was pretty shaken up to have such an incident happen at a place of prayer.
“I am so upset about it,” he told CBS8. “This is a place of worship to God. You are trying to burn down a place of worship? Is this the tolerance that we have?”
“We are here to practice just whatever we want. Right? So you cannot hate people like that. Hating me? Hating God? Is this what the USA is? Is this what our constitution tells you?”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals or persons responsible for the fire. The Florida chapter of the civil rights group said that the incident was a “heinous act of terror.”
Police in Davis are investigating another hate incident targeting the city’s Muslim community.
The UC Davis Police Department says that overnight Friday into Saturday, someone left a package of pork tenderloins on the doorstep of an apartment on Orchard Park Drive, off of Russell Boulevard.
Officers say the residents of the apartment are Muslim. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime because of pork being a prohibited food for people of the Muslim faith.
No suspects have been identified so far, police say.
The incident comes after a series of hate crimes against Muslims around the area. In January, a woman was caught on camera smashing the windows at the Islamic Center of Davis. She also left bacon on a door handle. She has not been identified, but authorities did raid a home last week connected to the investigation.
Earlier in February, a Roseville Islamic center was the target of vandals. Much of the building was left defaced with hate speech aimed at Muslims. No suspects have been identified in this incident either.
“Shoulder to Shoulder,” a project by the students of University of Washington Bothell class, comes with a strong anti-Islamophobia message.