- Hope, peace the focus of vigil at Escondido mosque
- The mosque was set on fire by an arsonist who left behind graffiti referencing NZ Christchurch attack
More than 150 people from different faiths gathered Sunday, March 24, for a night vigil at the Islamic Center of Escondido in the US which was targeted in an arson terrorist attack that’s currently under investigation, San Diego Union Tribune reports.
Members of the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Unitarian faiths took turns speaking at the solemn event, which was followed by an invitation to the public to enter the mosque for evening prayers.
“One of the worshipping men who was awake spotted flames near the mosque’s door and when they all ran outside, they saw an exterior wall of the mosque on fire,” Yusef Miller, a board member for the Islamic Society of North County, told the crowd at the vigil.
“The flames were quickly extinguished, but the suspect left behind a note in graffiti on the driveway referencing the Christchurch Massacre of Muslims in New Zealand on March 16. The incident is now under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” he continued.
According to police reports, the terrorist attack on the mosque took place at about 3 am on Sunday when an unidentified suspect used an accelerant to set fire to the exterior of the mosque.
The Islamophobic terrorist attack was about to kill worshippers who were sleeping inside the mosque before Fajr dawn prayers.
“People say prayers don’t help, but prayers saved their lives. This is a residential community. These brothers, when they came out to extinguish the fire, they didn’t only protect themselves, they protected the whole community. That’s what we believe in Islam. We have a sacred duty to protect our neighbor and vice versa,” Miller said on stage.
One of the vigil’s speakers, Dustin Craun, the executive director of the San Diego office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), hoped these sorts of incidents will spark a conversation about the scourge of Islamophobic terrorism that leads to what he calls “a spiritual transformation of society and public attitudes about race.”
Two Escondido City Council members attended and spoke at the event, including ten-year council member Olga Diaz and Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez, who said she was heartbroken by the arson attack.
“Escondido Police Department, which had a noticeable but unobtrusive presence at the vigil, will be stepping up patrols in the neighborhood to discourage any further attacks,” Diaz decided.
The Islamic Center of Escondido, also known as Dar Ul Arqam Mosque, offers daily calls to prayer and a heavy schedule of classes that are open to the public.
The 400 m2-building was previously used by the Church of Christ, which closed in 2015 due to the lack of believers and worshippers.
Escondido city is located in San Diego County’s North County region in California. It had a population of 143,911 in the 2010 census.
According to a Pew Research survey in 2014, Muslims represented no more than 1% of the total population of the State of California.