By Meredith Smith
Just months ago 50 Corban students visited the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis during World Outreach Week. Just days ago, the same Islamic Center was the target of an arson attack.
Early on Nov. 28, a fire was set at the center. Fire prevention officer Carla Pusateri told the media she believed it to be arson because of a broken window and flammable liquid found at the scene. After the fire, police increased patrols around mosques and other Islamic sites in the Portland area.
The fire was contained to one room and burned 80 percent of the center’s office, but none of the worship areas were affected. No injuries were reported.
The reason for this arson was assumed to be the attendance of Mohamed Osman Mohamud at this center. Nineteen-year-old Mohamud was charged with plotting to carry out an act of terror at the Nov. 26 Christmas tree lighting ceremony held in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Undercover federal agents trained Mohamud to blow up a bomb, gave him $3000 to rent an apartment and provided him with a fake bomb.
He has been charged with attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction; authorities report that he parked a van full of explosives near the square and dialed a cell phone he thought would blow up the bomb.
While many Portland residents have expressed shock over the plot, others are criticizing the FBI’s methods of arresting the wanna-be terrorist. The two undercover federal agents involved are being defended against charges of entrapment by Attorney General Eric Holder.
A candlelight vigil was held Nov. 30 at the mosque, and people from all faiths participated. Temple Imam Yosof Wanly reportedly said that Mohamud’s alleged act of terrorism does not represent the Islamic faith. According to Wanly, Mohamud only inconsistently attended the center because he attended nearby Oregon State University.
Wanly said the Corvallis general public has always been accepting of Muslims and of the 40-year-old center. However, he has been advised by friends to take his family out of his home because of the possibility of hate crimes.
Corban students were just as shocked as the Corvallis and Portland community by this attempted act of terror and consequential arson to the same mosque they had so recently visited.
“Having gone there, we talked to some people seemed generally morally good people,” said Jay Jacobsen. “I don’t condone the fact that they burned the mosque.”
He thinks Americans racially profile Muslims. The government may try to prevent this, but “how do you really distinguish between a radical Muslim and one who isn’t?” he asked.
Karli Havens said she was shocked when she first heard about the fire because she had just been there. “Everyone seemed so nice and normal,” she said.
Her first thought was of a woman who had said she didn’t want people to think she was a terrorist. “It affects all of those people, not just that one guy,” she said. “That is disrespectful to the religion.”
Megan Buczkowski’s heart is for the people of the center. “It makes me want to go back,” she said. “I wish we had more of a connection or a bridge so we could have some sort of an outreach or even friendship with the people.”