Federal investigators have decided a fire at the site of a planned Islamic center and mosque in Tennessee was arson. Detectives are offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Construction equipment at the site in Murfreesboro was doused with fuel and the cab of a heavy dump truck burned before the fire could be put out. Authorities had been careful not to assume it was arson, but now lab tests have returned showing accelerants were used.
Investigators are not yet calling the fire a hate crime. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is waiting for suspects to be identified so the motivation can be determined.
If the fire turns out to be an act of intimidation toward Muslims, it will represent even more hostility than what’s been seen. So far, opposition to the mosque has come in the form of rallies and minor graffiti. Mosque leaders believe the parallel debate over an Islamic center near ground zero is fueling opposition in Tennessee.