The FBI met with Tennessee’s Muslim leaders Monday to discuss the recent arson at a mosque site in Murfreesboro and reassure the leaders that federal officials are on the case.
As the Washington Post reports, the meeting took place at the U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville. The U.S. attorney is the one who will determine whether the fire rises to the level of a hate crime or civil rights violation, and the FBI is the agency which conducts hate crimes investigations.
It’s a signal that the feds are looking at the arson as a hate crime, even though they’ve officially said there’s “no indication” that the fire qualifies.
The meeting followed a prayer service at the Islamic Center of Nashville last Saturday night, hours after the torched equipment was discovered, to which leaders invited two FBI agents.
Supervisory Special Agent Scott Augenbaum, a spokesman for the FBI’s Nashville office, said agents attended the prayer service “because we were invited guests” and to reinforce that “hate crimes and violations of civil rights are very important priorities for the FBI.”
“We have a long-standing relationship with the Muslim community,” said Augenbaum, adding that the FBI’s outreach “is important for us to build bridges, to build relationships out there.” FBI and other federal officials met with local Muslim leaders Monday at the U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville, seeking to ease their concerns about violence.
Some Muslims weren’t pleased with the decision, citing long-standing tensions with the FBI as the agency tries to keep tabs on their community in the interest of preventing terrorism.
But a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville said it was reassuring for the agents to be there.
“That was a hate crime, so the FBI needs to be involved,” said Amir Arain.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, visiting the state this week, said she hopes that the arsonists are caught and prosecuted, but wouldn’t comment further on the case.
Tensions continue to run high in Murfreesboro, where a rally organized by opponents and dubbed “In Defense of our Community” is scheduled for Sept. 16 at the county courthouse. And one vocal opponent to the construction project has reported receiving two threats after appearing on “The Daily Show.”