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Arson and assaults unite religious leaders in South Sound

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Over the past two months, churches, mosques, a Sikh community center and a Buddhist nun have been attacked, raped, torched or desecrated in the South Sound.

On Sunday, religious leaders from these targeted places of worship as well as elected officials, including U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, will meet at Tacoma Community College to condemn the violence and spread a message of unity.

“No matter how much people may seek to promote hatred or violence, we as believers are united, and an attack on one of us is truly an attack on all,” said organizer Aneelah Afzali. , executive director of the Muslim Association of Puget. Sound-American Muslim Empowerment Network (MAPS-AMEN).

Afzali acknowledged that the reasons for the attacks vary and that not all are hate crimes.

“But whatever the reason for these attacks, places of worship should be places of peace, places where we find refuge, not where we find attacks or damage,” she said on Friday.

One of those arson attacks took place on October 11 at the Tacoma Islamic Center at University Place. A man allegedly threw burning equipment on the roof of the mosque, causing a major fire. A suspect is in custody.

AbdulHakim Mohamed, imam and executive director of the mosque, does not want people to be stressed by recent events.

“The majority of people are amazing, are awesome, are awesome,” Mohamed said. “And there are a few people like that who want to create division and hatred. We are not going to allow them to do that.

“Interfaith Solidarity Against Attacks on Places of Worship” begins at 2 p.m. and will consist of short speeches, Afzali said.

Afzali hopes Sunday’s event will also send the message to the justice system that attacks on faith-based institutions must be fully investigated.

“When people see and hear about this alarming increase in these kinds of attacks, and especially in Tacoma, where a lot of them have happened, it’s really worrying,” she said.

Mohamed, who will speak on Sunday, does not know why his mosque and other places of worship have been targeted. He says it will only strengthen the community.

“The fire will only light up our hearts of love and unity,” he said. “The buildings might burn down, but we’ll just get together. ”

Recent attacks on places of worship

An arson attack damaged an office at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish on October 24. Cameron Riley Prater has been charged with this fire and five others.

An arson attack at the Tacoma Islamic Center at University Place on October 11. Angel Joseph Rodriguez has been charged with the crime.

An assault on a Buddhist nun at the Khmer Theravadin Buddhist temple in Tacoma on September 21.

An arson attack at the Oasis of Hope Center in Tacoma, part of the Greater Christ Temple Church, on September 12. Willie Burnett Carroll has been charged with arson in this incident.

A burglary and desecration of religious objects at the Masjid Umar Al-Farooq Mosque in Mountlake Terrace on September 12.

Vandalism at St. Edward’s Church in Seattle on October 10 and St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Seattle in August.

A break-in, theft and vandalism at the Khalsa Gurmat Center (a Federal Way Sikh community center) on September 17.

“Interfaith Solidarity Gathering”

When: 2:00 p.m. on Sunday

Or: Tacoma Community College, 6501 S. 19th St., Tacoma, Building 2, Auditorium (nearest parking lot is in Lots H and G)

Registration: Required for the event at www.tinyurl.com/InterfaithSolidarity.

Organized by: Tacoma Islamic Center, Associate Ministries and MAPS.

COVID-19 Directives: TCC regulations require all guests to be fully vaccinated for this indoor event, and masks will be required.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune since 1998 as a writer, editor and photographer. He previously worked for The Olympian and for other newspapers in Nevada and California. He graduated in journalism from San Jose State University.


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