Hawzah News Agency (Connecticut, US) – With Ramadan underway, the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven was a daily gathering place for Muslims to be among friends and family as they broke their fast.
But on Sunday, worshipers received devastating news: A fire had broken out just before 4 p.m., rendering the mosque uninhabitable.
And on Monday, New Haven officials delivered another blow: They announced that they believed that the fire had been set intentionally.
"We're just kind of shocked,'' said Haydar Elevli, the president of the Connecticut branch of the Turkish-American Religious Foundation, which owns the mosque. ''Everybody’s sad right now.''
The specific motive for the arson was unclear. There have been no arrests and the investigation is continuing, the authorities said.
Nobody was hurt in the blaze, and Mr. Elevli said in an interview on Monday night that the damage was “not too bad.” The New Haven Fire Department did not respond to further requests for comment.
At a news conference earlier Monday, while standing in front of the charred three-story building, Chief John Alston of the Fire Department said federal law enforcement officials were helping with the investigation into the arson.
“I found an attack like this is especially hurtful and hateful when you attack an institution for what people believe,” Gov. Ned Lamont said at the news conference.
The arson came at a time when places of worship have been frequent targets.
In March, 51 people were killed in attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the suspect published a hate-filled manifesto, the authorities said. A week later, someone set a fire outside an Islamic Center mosque in Escondido, Calif., and anti-Muslim graffiti referring to the New Zealand attacks was found, officials said.
"Given recent attacks on houses of worship in this country and around the world, it is incumbent on law enforcement authorities to investigate the possibility of a bias motive for this arson," Tark Aouadi, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Connecticut said in a statement about the New Haven fire.
Over the years, the New Haven mosque had become a go-to place for families to gather, with educational programs for children on the weekends.