The Justice Department said Cody Crawford had been charged with setting fire to the center.
CORVALLIS, Oregon – A young American man has been indicted in committing hate crime against American Muslim community after torching an Islamic center in Oregon in 2010 following an alleged plot on a Christmas ceremony.
“The indictment alleges that Crawford set the fire because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with the mosque,” the Justice Department said in a statement cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday, August 25.
The Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center, the largest in Portland, was targeted by an arson attack last November.
The Justice Department said Cody Crawford had been charged with setting fire to the center; the largest Muslim worship place in Portland.
The apparent hate crime has left the Islamic center partly destroyed after the arsonists broke an office window and threw a container of flammable liquid inside.
Court documents show that three weeks after the mosque attack, in unrelated encounters with police, Crawford ranted about Muslims, said Christians are capable of jihad and told an officer he resembled President Barack Obama.
“You look like Obama. You are a Muslim like him,” a court document quotes Crawford as telling a McMinnville officer Dec. 14.
“Jihad goes both ways. Christians can jihad too.”
The document says Crawford told officers “only Christians could understand him, that he was a Christian warrior that they were persecuting,” and that “you will never know the truth about the mosque.”
“Burning a house of worship because of hatred toward members of one religion is not just an attack on that religion; it is an attack on our core American values,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez.
If convicted, Crawford faces a minimum of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Crawford’s arrest spread relief inside the Corvallis Muslim community.
“I appreciate everyone working here,” Mozafar Wanly told KVAL website thanking FBI role in arresting the attacker.
“They make big change for the community for everyone in the area.” Wanly said Crawford’s alleged crimes are based on ignorance of the true message of Islam.
“I would say to him, “I think you misunderstand Islam. Islam is the religion of the love. We love everybody. You are misunderstanding us.’ “
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to eight million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was targeting their faith.
The debate about US Muslims was stirred last year after declaring plans to build a Muslim community center in Manhattan, close to 9/11 site.
Opponents argue that the planned building would be an insult to the memory of the 9/11 victims, but advocates say that the mosque would send a message of tolerance in 9/11-post America.
The controversy has fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments across the United States, with a spree of attacks on Muslim worship places and property.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center has showed that the majority of Americans know very little about Islam.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll has also found that more than half Americans already hold negative views about the faith.
However, almost a year after the attack, the torched mosque room was renovated, leaving nothing bad in the hearts of Oregonian Muslims.
“Nobody carrying anything bad in his heart,” Wanly said.