Missourians of all faiths were shocked and outraged over a fire that was apparently set at the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau on April 24, causing extensive damage to the sanctuary at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Reacting to the fire, Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter: “In Missouri, we won’t tolerate an attack on any house of worship. This was a cowardly act.”
A suspect, Nicholas J. Proffitt, 42, has been arrested and charged with several state and federal crimes, including felony burglary, felony first-degree arson and first degree property damage enhanced as a hate crime.
Eleven years ago, Proffitt was taken into custody for a similar incident at the same mosque and pleaded guilty to throwing rocks at the building. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Authorities said no one was injured in the fire, but the building was damaged enough that the city condemned it.
The Jewish community of Missouri has spoken with one voice, deploring the cowardly attack and vowing to support the Islamic Center as it rebuilds “both structurally and spiritually.” Recent attacks at synagogues and on rabbis and Jewish worshippers have made us acutely aware of the tremendous harm such incidents cause.
And, sadly, such attacks go back in time, the most infamous being Kristallnacht. On Nov. 9-10, 1938, the sweep of hatred included the burning of 700 synagogues and the smashing of windows of Jewish-owned stores, leaving pavements strewn with broken glass. The night of broken glass is viewed by many as the unofficial start of the reign of terror that led to the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
In solidarity with the victim of the latest atrocity, more than a dozen Jewish organizations from throughout Missouri issued this statement:
“On behalf of the Jewish community of Missouri, we write both with sadness and hope to our Brothers and Sisters of the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau, sharing our pain for the devastating loss of their building and sanctuary due to a suspicious fire last Friday, April 24, at the start of the most holy month of Ramadan. We stand with them as law enforcement partners in the region conclude the investigation, so glad to learn an arrest has been made.
“We feel the impact of hate on the Muslim community in Cape Girardeau, around the region and across the country with the heartache and fear that such violence creates. We are hopeful because we see an outpouring of friendship from interfaith and community allies in the region, and we add our voices to theirs and pledge to help the Islamic Center rebuild, both structurally and spiritually.
“Each time one of these horrific acts occurs, we are further strengthened in our commitment to enhancing our understanding of each other’s communities and allowing new friendships to deepen our collective ability to improve the communities in which we live.”
Anyone who wants to donate to the effort to reach the mosque’s rebuilding goal of $650,000 can do so at http://bit.ly/2YzntOE.
At a time when everyone is on edge because of the extended shutdowns, any crime is offensive to efforts to maintain a civil society. But this attack cuts particularly deeply. We wish those who worship at the Cape Girardeau mosque peace during their holy observance, and always.