(THONOTOSASSA, Fla.) — Officials believe an early morning fire at a mosque in Florida was intentionally set, and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
The Hillsbourgh County Fire Rescue received a call around 2:09 a.m. local time Friday about a fire at the Islamic Society of New Tampa in Thonotosassa. Firefighters put out the blaze and no one was hurt, though the building, commonly referred to as the New Tampa Mosque, suffered some property damage, officials said.
Officials and mosque members said it appears someone tried to break into the building. There are marks on the door, which is locked every night when the mosque closes.
Authorities will review footage from surveillance cameras that are installed throughout the property. The investigation is ongoing.
Officials from CAIR Florida, the state’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, held a news conference with officials outside the mosque Friday morning. Members of the mosque told reporters they’ve already received incredible support on social media and from the community.
Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, an attorney and the communications director for CAIR Florida, called the fire a “hate crime” and an “act of terror.”
“We congratulate the Hillsborough County first responders for their prompt response to this tragic situation. It is worrisome that our community have fallen victim of what appears to be another hate crime,” Ruiz said in a statement Friday. “CAIR-Florida urgently call [sic] all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to be on top of the investigation of what appears to be a heinous act of terror against the Muslim community.”
Due to the ongoing investigation, there will be no Friday prayer at the mosque Friday. All regular prayers will be held in the old mosque building, according to a press release from the Islamic Society of New Tampa.
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