Federal law enforcement agents are offering $20,000 for information that leads them to solving a case of vandalism at the construction site of a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center in Rutherford County.
On Aug. 28 a fire was set to construction equipment at the site of a future Islamic Center of Murfreesboro worship house and community hall south of Murfreesboro. The case has garnered widespread media attention.
“We are bringing all our resources to bear to make sure this case gets into federal court so justice can be served,” Steven Gerido, an assistant special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said during a press conference at the mosque construction site Friday.
He called the case “high profile,” but stopped short of labeling it a “hate crime.”
“We don’t feed into all of the different circumstances surrounding the event itself,” Gerido added.
The FBI and BATFE have confirmed the act was, as has already been widely reported, a case of arson. Laboratory tests for the use of fire “accelerants” at the site returned positive, agents said.
“The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, ATF and FBI are continuing to investigate and no further information regarding the ongoing investigation can be provided at this time,” Gerido said.
Cami Ayash, spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has in the past called the incident a “shameful crime…instigated by the hate campaign that our Muslim community has been subjected to recently.”
“Somebody knows something, and hopefully this is an incentive to get someone to step forward,” she said.
On Friday Ayash elaborated on mosque leaders’ thinking on events of the past few weeks and months. Had they the chance to plan the development and initiate construction on their new facilities all over again, they probably would not have done so at the height of an election season, she said.
“All of this started because of bad timing on our part,” said Ayesh. “A lot of people were running their campaigns off of ‘terrorist training camps’ and things like that. Unfortunately, when you have people that plant that initial seed, then you have those who want to take it and run with it, and take the law into their own hands.”
“I really don’t think there is anything politically motivating whoever did this,” Ayash added.