An abandoned vehicle set ablaze in the parking lot of an East Amherst, NY mosque is raising suspicions from the local Muslim community. No one was injured in the fire, which occurred outside the Jaffarya Islamic Center, but there’s concern that the incident might have been a “malicious act toward Muslims.”
Buffalo News The vehicle was parked far enough away from the Jaffarya Center that it didn’t damage the Islamic worship site, said Khalid J. Qazi, chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York. “Nevertheless,” Qazi said, “It scared the people on our end. They’re scared what else might happen.”
Amherst police continue to investigate. “At this point, we really don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like it had to do with the mosque itself,” said Assistant Police Chief Charles C. Cohen. “It just seems like it was a lot where a car was left that either caught fire or set fire.” But Qazi says “I think someone drove it to the mosque and set it on fire to scare muslims.” (Nah, if they wanted to scare Muslims, they would have set the
mosque jihad training center on fire)
“My suspicion is there are at least two people. Somebody had to drive it, and somebody had to take that driver back,” Qazi said. “We demand to know who it was and what their intentions were.”
Mosque members had a feud with a neighbor four years ago. In that case, the homeowner staked a sign on his front lawn insinuating that the Islamic worship site was home to a “bomb-making” operation.
What started as a neighborhood dispute about size and proximity of a new mosque in suburban Buffalo has now turned into a discussion of Islamophobia and free speech. The Buffalo News reports that Michael Heick, Amherst, NY, put up a sign in his front yard that reads “Bomb Making, Next Driveway.” Heick lives next door to the 11,600-square-foot Jaffarya Islamic Center, so the implication is clear.
The resident who put up the sign was upset that the mosque was built too close to his house and that its lights are too bright. Local Amherst station WIVB reports that the police have been called but the Town Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein said that while the sign is “inappropriate,” “it’s the same free speech that we all hold so dearly.”
Mosque members and other area Muslims objected to the sign and called upon Heick to take it down.
“I would really think it’s an incitement of hatred against Muslims,” said Dr. Syed Jaffri, an Amherst psychiatrist and member of the mosque’s board of trustees. “Law enforcement should take it very seriously. Tomorrow, somebody could say, ‘Oh they have weapons,’ and people believe it.”