Hate Crime Investigation Continues of Fire at Building Connected to Dearborn Mosque
Some advocacy groups have called for the incident to be investigated as a possible hate crime.
Dearborn police and FBI officials are still investigating a fire and graffiti discovered Tuesday at a storage building at the Dearborn Woods Community Center on Pelham, as community reaction to the incident continues to grow.
The Council for American Islamic Relations of Michigan called on law enforcement officials to investigate the incident as an anti-Muslim or anti-Arab hate crime, citing similar cases in Michigan and beyond over the past few months.
The affected building is owned and operated by the American Muslim Center, located nearby out Outer Drive in Dearborn. A fire destroyed the storage space Tuesday morning, which was also found to be spray painted with obscene graffiti, along with the word “Arabs.”
FBI Detroit spokesman Simon Shaykhet told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday that they are still unsure that the act was a bias-motivated arson.
"The FBI is investigating this matter," Shaykhet said in an email to the Free Press. "We are working together with our state and local law enforcement partners to determine exactly what occurred."
Nonetheless, several community groups have spoken out against the act.
“Acts of hate should not be tolerated under any circumstance,” said American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Sr. National Advisor and Regional Director Imad Hamad in a statement released Wednesday. “ADC trusts that the FBI and law enforcement will swiftly investigate this assault which was committed against all of us. We look forward to the outcome of this investigation.”
Similarly, ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber released a statement this week condemning the act.
“Dearborn is a community of people from diverse backgrounds who live and thrive together, so the possibility of a hate crime in our midst is particularly jarring,” he said.
Jaber also thanked the FBI for their “prompt response to this incident.”
“We encourage the law enforcement system to carry out a full and fair investigation,” he said. “At the same time, we encourage all Dearborn residents to be patient as this investigation unfolds.”
Some–including Patch readers–have suggested that the act was probably just the work of teenagers up to no good.
According to CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, a witness at the scene said they saw four young men running toward nearby Edsel Ford High School near the time of the fire.
Walid said that does not excuse the act.
"Even if this fire and graffiti incident was perpetrated by mischievous teens, “ he commented, “the invoking of ethnicity in the graffiti shows that racial and religious animus has been stoked against Arabs and Muslims in our societal discourse.”