A crowdfunding project to rebuild the Joplin, Missouri mosque hit by a brutal arson attack has blown past its $250,000 goal, raising over $286,000 at press time.
The mosque was burned to the ground on Monday, August 6. It was the middle of the month of Ramadan, an important religious holiday for Muslims. It was the second suspected arson attack to the mosque this summer.
For many in Missouri, the mosque was a space for community building after last year’s tornados, the campaign says. Now, some Missouri Christians are hoping to pay that sense of community forward. Joplin churches gathered at St Phillip’s Episcopal church on Wednesday to host an iftar, or fast-breaking meal, for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Mosque member Rizwarm Ahmad said she found the gesture heartwarming: “I feel like we are welcome here. Reassuring us that we are not alone in it and the community has shown that we are all in this together.”
Missouri Muslims are dedicated to preventing a similar attack from happening in the future. According to a campaign update by Shahed Amanullah on behalf of the Joplin Mosque, the new mosque will include enhanced security systems. “Most of all, we want the technology to feel safe again.”
Amanullah says that the community is also considering whether to rebuild the mosque within city limits. “Locating within the city limits, as opposed to the current rural location without street lights or much traffic, would decrease the response time of police and firefighters, should another attack occur,” he says. “Also, a mosque inside the city would provide a greater chance of witnesses to an attack.”
Over 2000 people have supported the mosque with donations, according to the indiegogo campaign. At least 287 have given donations of $250 or more. Amanullah writes that surplus donations will go towards more mosque improvements, such as a playground or a library room.
But some say that’s not enough. The FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) have tape of a suspicious person related to last month’s arson attack, and are offering a $15,000 reward to anyone with information about that previous fire. Gawker says the reward will be extended to the most recent incident, “should it be considered deliberate.”
Susan Campbell, who is from Joplin, wrote on the incident for Slate. “Despite the video evidence and reward, there was never an arrest,” she says, about the previous fire—which remains unsolved. “Muslims in Joplin probably weren’t surprised: When they opened their mosque and community center in 2007, their sign was torched…That’s a lot of open cases in a town as small as Joplin.”
”I do not believe the arsonist acted alone, or in a vacuum,” Campbell says. “The perpetrator has bragged somewhere, in a bar, at work, at—yes!—church. And while Joplin residents would do well to hold a vigil and take up a collection to help their Muslim neighbors rebuild, the best thing would be to turn this yahoo in.”