Ore. Fire Raises Muslims’ Fears Of Attack Backlash

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Someone set fire to an Islamic center on Sunday, two days after a man who worshipped there was accused of trying to blow up a van full of explosives during Portland’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Other Muslims fear it could be the first volley of misplaced retribution.

The charges against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born 19-year-old who was caught in a federal sting operation, are testing tolerance in a state that has been largely accepting of Muslims. Muslims who know the suspect say they are shocked by the allegations against him and that he had given them no hint of falling into radicalism.

The fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis was reported at 2:15 a.m., and evidence at the scene led authorities to believe it was set intentionally, said Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department.

Authorities don’t know who started the blaze or why, but they believe the center was targeted because Mohamud occasionally worshipped there.

Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said there’s no conclusive link to the bombing in Portland or specific evidence that it’s a hate crime, other than the timing.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton vowed to prosecute the case aggressively.

“The fact is that violent extremists come from all religions and no religion at all. For one person to blame a group, if that’s what happened here, is uniquely anti-American and will be pursued with the full force of the Justice Department,” he said.

Mohamud was being held on charges of plotting to carry out a terror attack Friday on a crowd of thousands at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. His attorney, Stephen R. Sady, didn’t return a telephone message left Sunday by The Associated Press.

The suspect’s mother, Maryan Hassan, declined to answer any questions when contacted by phone late Sunday by The Associated Press, referring all questions to Sady. His father also refused to comment.

On Friday, he parked what he thought was a bomb-laden van near the ceremony and then went to a nearby train station, where he dialed a cell phone that he believed would detonate the vehicle, federal authorities said. Instead, federal authorities moved in and arrested him. No one was hurt.

There were also no injuries in Sunday’s fire, which burned 80 percent of the center’s office but did not spread to worship areas or any other rooms, said Yosof Wanly, the center’s imam.

After daybreak, members gathered at the center, where a broken window had been boarded up.

“I’ve prayed for my family and friends, because obviously if someone was deliberate enough to do this, what’s to stop them from coming to our homes and our schools?” said Mohamed Alyagouri, a 31-year-old father of two who worships at the center. “I’m afraid for my children getting harassed from their teachers, maybe from their friends.”

Wanly said he was thinking about temporarily relocating his family because of the possibility of hate crimes.

“We know how it is, we know some people due to ignorance are going to perceive of these things and hold most Muslims accountable,” Wanly said. But he said Corvallis, a college town about 75 miles southwest of Portland, has long been accepting of Muslims.

“The common scene here is to be very friendly, accepting various cultures and religions,” Wanly said. “The Islamic center has been here for 40 years, it’s more American than most Americans with regards to age.”

In Portland, residents are alarmed by the terror plot, but Mayor Sam Adams said they are “not going to let this change our values of being an open and embracing city.” He said that he beefed up patrols around mosques “and other facilities that might be vulnerable to knuckle-headed retribution” after hearing of the bomb plot.

The FBI was working closely with leadership at the Corvallis center as agents investigated the fire, Balizan said. The bureau has established a telephone tip line and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.

Wanly said Mohamud moved to the U.S. from Somalia as a young boy. Mohamud graduated from high school in the Portland suburb of Beaverton. He attended Oregon State University but dropped out on Oct. 6.

Isgow Mohamed, director of the Northwest Somali Community Organization, said he has known Mohamud’s father, Osman Barre, since 1996.

“Both parents, mother and father, they are civilized people,” Mohamed said. “They don’t believe in killing even a small animal. So what do you think two civilized people, what their product will be?”

Barre has not spoken with his son since his arrest on Friday, Mohamed said.

Wanly described Mohamud as a normal student who went to athletic events, drank an occasional beer and was into rap music and culture. He described Mohamud as religious, saying he attended prayers in Corvallis once or twice a month over a year and a half.

Wanly, 24, said that in about 15 conversations he had with Mohamud, the teen rarely discussed religion. He said that may have been because Mohamud knew his extremist views wouldn’t be tolerated, and suggested that Mohamud was influenced by radical teachings he read on the Internet.

“If a person has a type of agenda, he can find anything he wants on the Internet and block out everything else,” Wanly said.

In the days leading up to his arrest, Mohamud’s friends thought he appeared on edge, Wanly said.

“He seemed to be in a state of confusion,” Wanly said. “He would say things that weren’t true. He’d say ‘I’m going to go get married,’ for example. He wasn’t going to go get married.”

Mohamud is among tens of thousands of Somalis who have resettled in the United States since their country plunged into lawlessness in 1991. The U.N.-backed government controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu, the capital, while large parts of Somalia are controlled by the insurgent group Al-Shabab, which vows allegiance to al-Qaida.

Omar Jamal, first secretary for the Somali mission to the United Nations in New York City, told The Associated Press his office has received “thousands of calls” from Somalis in the United States who are concerned about tactics used by federal agents in the sting operation against Mohamud.

Jamal said there is concern in the Somali community that Mohamud was “lured into an illegal act.”

An FBI affidavit said it was Mohamud who picked the target of the bomb plot, that he was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could die, and that he could back out.

Officials said Mohamud had no formal ties to foreign terror groups, although he had reached out to suspected terrorists in Pakistan.

After the FBI got a tip about Mohamud, an agent e-mailed him over the summer, pretending to be affiliated with an “unindicted associate” whom Mohamud had tried to contact.

Agents had some face-to-face meetings with Mohamud. On Nov. 4, in the backcountry along Oregon’s coast, they convinced him that he was testing an explosive device — although the explosion was controlled by agents.

On Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove into downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Steve B

    Amazing, Americans extend all the gracious benefits of living in the safety of our country to the less fortunate people in the world. And this is how they want to repay us? By slaughtering our innocent in the name of there God. We don’t need them here any more!
    It’s time to start the deportation of all non-nationals out of America. It’s just a matter of time before they succeed.

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  • Kevin

    A person threatens to burn 1 Quran and the Middle East erupts in violent protest….a Muslim attempts to blow up a “Christmas Tree” lighting ceremony in Portland and the Middle East is as quite and somber as a kitten who just finished a bowl of warm milk……So i protested for the Middle East (since they were to busy)…..I march around my house….burnded an American Flag…..kicked my cat…….and spewed threats in Arabic………your welcome Middle East…

    • Dee Dee

      lmao!! Priceless! can I

  • nick

    The look on his face makes me sick. This contry will never have a backbone strong enough to kick these people out. The only way we can prevent things like this from happening is by treating them all like terrorists. I hate to have to say that because I have met some nice ones there but because of people like this we need to.

    • Sick Of the BS

      You are so very correct. We do not have a backbone because we are too busy trying to be poltically correct ( or should we say corrupt) It makes me sick to think how this country has changed over the past twenty five years and there has been nothing positive about any of it. How many more innocent Americans are going to need to be killed before we take this threat seriously . Send them all back to where they came from !

  • chris

    Bunch of Idiot, scared and uneducated Minnesota folks commenting on here. Go hide in your cave because the world is going to end.

    • C. Ryan

      Chris is obviously the uneducated scared idiot! Probably see a picture of Chris next time we have a terrorist threat (by an uneducated non Minnesotan that Chris undoubtedly is!)

  • Mark from MNtaxwaste

    We could put this clown with explosives in a van blow it up, that way its a win win for everyone. He gets to blow something up and see that loser Alla, and we get to save tax dollars.

  • Mark from MNtaxwaste

    Sharia Law, If your gay you get stoned to death, if your a woman shut your mouth and cover your face. These losers need to go

  • fabi

    Grow up America. there’s probably 100,0000 somalis in Minnesota and only a few sick individuals are making some bad mistak. but, you have to see the ohter 99.9% good people who do not want harm anyone

    • Kevin

      Hmmmm…put your sippy cup down and open your liberal mind….all you have to do is read the news and you will be free…..how is that Kool Aid working for you? How is that whole thrill up your leg for Obami working out for you?????

  • Jesse

    Why do we allow our enemies to settle in our land? “Our government” is no longer our government.

    • V for Vendetta

      Exactly. The US Government is the enemy. They have sold us out to the Federal Reserve as Federal as Federal Express and the Government is too worried about being called “racist”. They are also too worried about being “politically correct”. We are being fleeced and sold by Uncle Sam.

  • Kevin

    Import violent cultures….expect violence…….Somali in Somali out……

  • Ram

    FBI behind all these, now they got what they wanted, a mosque been burned down and tensions between two communities. they wanna divide this country. they were mentoring this kid through email and phone for six months, he was just a teenager.

  • Dee Dee

    Fabi, you may be right. I have met some from the Somali community who were nice and didn’t think this way but I have to tell you that most of don’t even feel the need to associate with anyone who is outside of their own. That isn’t much of a problem however when you live in a global country like ours you either get with the program or leave.
    When we lived in Rochester, Mn my kids were bullied all the time and it wasn’t the racist white kids-although there were plenty down that way, it was Somali children threatening to kill my children. And we are black! My kids learned how to fight because their neighbors thought it was alright to put their hands on them and I finally had to let go of my convictions and tell my 5 and 7 year olds to “whip dat booty !’ And when I tried to talk to the 12 year old boys’ mom, 8 other Somali women showed up outside in the parking lot like they were going to clown me!
    I hate to sound like a racist pig nor do I condone people being mistreated because of their skin or nationality but I have to call it as I see it. People who have proven time and time again that they hate Americans simply don’t need to be here. And that goes for our home grown traitors as well.

    • Kevin

      Dee Dee….Marry me I am yours!!!!!!! Lets throw on some sheets…..and protest for all those millions of Muslims in the US that sit on their butt’s and refuse to denounce and protest the terrorist behavior!!! We can honeymoon in St Cloud…their city is now over 25% Somalian……

  • Nick

    Well put

  • V for Vendetta

    Huh, I thought Islam was the religion of peace?????? The problem is the Muslim world is silent because this is how their population numbers boil down. 10% of the Muslim faith are exactly like this guy and will kill for their religion, 40% support this guy, and the other half are too afraid to say anything because they don’t want to be killed by the other half. Did you notice how no one denounced this guy’s actions, just that he was confused or a “liar” in the article. Just more excuses. The biggest difference between Christianity and Islam is that lying is a major sin in the Christian faith (even if your life depends on the situation), whereas it is encouraged to lie in the Muslim faith especially with the authorities. I moved to Northern Europe to escape this and that was a smart decision. As America melts down because of people like this, I am not going to feel sorry for her or the citizens because you keep inviting insane people from a nation that does not produce anything positive (they actually don’t produce anything) and receive them into your state with open arms and welfare checks for life, meanwhile I toiled everyday in America just to get by. Northern Europe is much better.

  • Mark from MNtaxwaste

    This guy was not baited as the Liberal Left would want you to believe. He knew what he was doing all the time. He want to KILL AS MANY AMERICANS as he could. He didn’t care about children men, women, race, he just wanted to KILL AMERICANS. He hates us because of the freedom we have for ALL. It doesn’t fit with Sharia Law where only the few have power over everything. This slimeball needs to be put to death, and he can have his freaky 40 virgins, and talk to the hate filled Alla for eternity.

  • The Creator

    For all those who use religion as an excuse to attack other…. HOW MANY GOD do you think create the we call Earth and LIFE on earth? Once you answer this question.. the next question is WHY ARE THERE SO MANY religion on earth?

  • franny

    Deport people like this!!!!!

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