FBI to take over possible arson at Coachella mosque:
Firefighters are on the scene of a possible arson fire at a mosque in Coachella, the same mosque that was fired upon last year in what was investigated as a hate crime.
FBI investigators are en route to take over the fire incident.
The fire was reported at 12:09 p.m. Friday and, at 12:49 p.m., Cal Fire reported it has been contained to the front lobby of the Masjid Ibrahim mosque at 84650 Avenue 49.
There were people inside the mosque when the fire started, but no injuries were reported.
"At approximately 12:11 p.m., officers from the Coachella Police Department received a call regarding a possible arson at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley," Riverside County Sheriff's Department spokesman Deputy Armando Muñoz said.
The investigation is continuing and no other details could be immediately released, Muñoz said.
While the fire was quickly contained to the front lobby of the 1,800-square-foot, single-story building, there is smoke damage throughout the mosque, Cal Fire officials said.
The incident comes nine days after a mass shooting by a radicalized Muslim couple at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where 14 people were killed and 21 others were injured.
Syed Rizwan Farook, a 28-year-old San Bernardino County environmental health specialist, and his 27-year-old wife, Tashfeen Malik, used four guns to shoot his county coworkers at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2.
Abdullah Salaam, a member of the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley, discussed the shooting that occurred at the same Coachella mosque last year.
Four people were praying inside the same mosque about 5 am. Nov. 4, 2014, when at least five shots were fired, three hitting a car parked out front and others striking the building.
The incident was treated as a hate crime but never resolved despite a $12,000 reward.
"We're a peaceful people," Salaam said of the Muslim community.
The religion teaches love and peace, not violence, he said.
"If you want to know what we're doing, come on down," Salaam said, inviting anyone to visit the mosque and learn about their faith.
The mosque has been around for about 17 years.
Mosque security guard Ray Brewster said he expects to increase security at prayer services after this.
After hearing the news on Friday afternoon, Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Coachella Democrat, said "I am deeply concerned about the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley Mosque (being burned). I call for a thorough investigation to this arson as a possible hate crime and to bring the perpetrators to justice. I will continue to closely monitor the fire, the possible criminal investigtaion, and the safety of the members of the mosque. Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated and we stand together against any form violence towards the innocent."
More than 20 community members gathered behind the crime scene tape outside of the burned building in the minutes after the fire was first reported.
Many who attend the mosque came to show their support for their religious community and fight back against what they believe is a religiously-motivated act.
Muhammad Bwaneh, who prays at the mosque regularly.
"This is just another form of a terrorist attack on Muslims," he said. "And whoever did this is considered a terrorist for attacking a place of peace where people come to do their prayers."
News Edited By:
KANWAL ABIDI *063 News (Global Press Agency)