JOPLIN, MISSOURI: A fire razed a Joplin, Missouri mosque to the ground early Monday under mysterious circumstances, about a month after after it's roof was damaged in a suspected case of arson, the local daily The Joplin Globe reported.
According to the report, the local fire crews reached the site of the incident after receiving a call from a passerby at around 3:30am (local time). The firefighters, having failed to effectively combat the flames, left the site at 8am.
Talking to the local daily, the Joplin Islamic Society’s Imam Lahmuddin sounded defiant, saying, “this should not stop us from serving God. We still have to fulfill our obligation. We will do our prayer in other places. If we don’t find a place, we will do our prayers in our home. We cannot miss any of the five prayers.”
However, Lahmuddin did not specify the new location where they would perform prayers.
“We just take this as a test from God. God is testing us. This is the month of Ramazan. We are fasting we are not supposed to get angry, we are not supposed to say anything bad,” he said. “But that’s not only for this month, but for every day of our lives. In Ramazan we are more careful in guarding our tongues, not to say anything inappropriate."
There were no reports of any injuries resulting from the fire. The Imam explained, "Last night we left at about 11:20 p.m. when we finished final prayers and we were supposed to get in here about 5 a.m. for the morning prayer. But God has a plan.”
The mosque, located at 1302 S. Black Cat Road, and serves about 50 families in the area. Imam Lahmuddin added that more people than usual came to the mosque in Ramazan.
“It’s unbelievable,” said 15-year-old Omar Ahmed, who came to the scene around 5 a.m. “It’s a house of worship. It’s a place of God,” adding that some people preferred spending the night at the mosque during Ramazan, but no one was in the building at the time.
“The whole thing was on fire,” Ahmed further said, “As soon as we turned on 32nd Street and Black Cat Road, you could just see the pillars (of smoke).”
The month of Ramadan ends on August 18, wherein Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. At the end of the month, they will celebrate Eid-ul-fitr.
“It’s basically our Christmas,” the 15-year-old said.
Earlier on July 4, a man attempted to set the mosque on fire in the morning. The man was not identified, but his image was caught on surveillance cameras. There is still a $15,000 reward for information leading to charges from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Carl Junction Fire Chief Bill Dunn said Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents were on the scene and believed the FBI would investigate the incident.
Takling to The Joplin Globe, the fire station chief further said, “It was really burning when we got here. The fire got inside and broke through the roof.”
Dunn said an accelerant could have built up the fire’s strength, adding that an investigation into the incident was underway, but they cannot yet prove if it was arson.
They have retrieved a damaged surveillance video box, which will be sent to the FBI.
The incident follows a deadly attack on Sunday when at least seven people were shot dead, including a suspected gunman, during a shooting at a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
The president of the Gurdwara, Satwant Kaleka, was shot and was taken to a hospital, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It said there were believed to be as many as 20 to 30 victims.