Christchurch attack note left at fire at California mosque

California Masjid arson attempt, fallout of New Zealand Mosque massacre?

Perhaps in the first attack on a mosque in the USA directly linked to the massacre of worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, a mosque in the Southern California city of Escondido was briefly lit on fire on Sunday (March 24) in an apparent arson attempt.

The blaze was extinguished by members of the Islamic Center of Escondido, and no one was injured. But police said that a note was found in the mosque’s parking lot that referenced the recent shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead.

While police said that the graffiti had referenced the mass shooting, they did not elaborate as to what exactly it said. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, an accelerant had been used when starting the fire. Authorities confirmed in a statement Sunday that they considered the attack to be an arson attempt.

Reporting the arson at the Escondido Mosque, Washington Post said:  “With rapid velocity, the violence visited on the Pacific island nation appears to have traversed the globe, choosing as one of its first American targets an unassuming, beige-colored place of Islamic worship, flanked by palm trees….

“It’s clear from the public platform sought by the alleged perpetrator that he intended to inspire copycat attacks — a point acknowledged by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she promised to deny him “notoriety” by refusing even to speak his name.

“The acts apparently influenced by the Christchurch shooter’s crusade may not be as deadly as those he is accused of carrying out on March 15; the methods might not be as technologically advanced. But the oxygen he breathed into anti-Muslim hatred has already been felt across continents, prompting new vows from religious minorities that they will not be cowed.”

According to Molly Olmstead of Slate, while the Escondido fire appears to be one of the first attempted hate crimes in the U.S. to explicitly reference the New Zealand shooting, a nonprofit in the U.K. has reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes have spiked dramatically—by 600 percent—since the shooting. According to the Guardian, the group learned of 95 incidents between March 15 and March 21, most of which referenced the New Zealand attack. In the U.S., anti-Muslim hate crimes have continued to rise in recent years, according to a report released last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The mosque in Escondido was established four years ago and serves the local community, which is located just north of San Diego. 

Dustin Craun, the head of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in San Diego, expressed concern over the attack on the mosque. He said: "It is disturbing enough that some sick individual would attempt to burn a house of worship to the ground, but referencing the slayings in New Zealand is beyond the pale."

"While the majority of humanity has responded to the tragedy to draw closer to one another and refute hatred, a violent and hate-filled minority seeks further divisions,” he added.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011(%)