Long Island

Fireball at Long Island Mosque Investigated as Hate Crime

The Suffolk District Attorney says the ball of flame was caused by someone using a container filled with an accelerant

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Police on Long Island are trying to figure out if a house of worship was targeted by hate after someone threw a container that exploded outside of a mosque.

A symbol of Islam now bears what worshipers at a Ronkonkoma mosque believe is a sign of hate: a burn mark -- the result of a pre-dawn Fourth of July incident outside the place of worship.

Imam Ahmed Ibrahim, of Masjid Fatima Al-Zahra, finished prayers inside when flames erupted around the Crescent moon sign.

"All of a sudden I hear a big explosion -- and I mean big explosion," Ibrahim said.

Surveillance video shows the seconds leading up to the incident. The Suffolk District Attorney says the ball of flame was caused by someone using a container filled with an accelerant. 

"He came from nowhere and did that. Did not achieve anything but it expressed hate.  Why?" Ibrahim said.  

Investigators are now trying to determine if this was a hate crime, but the district attorney's office says it sure looks like one.

"No good American can look at this and justify it," New York State Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-NY) said.

On Tuesday, local elected officials and mosque leaders condemned what happened.

The mosque has been in Ronkonkoma for three years. It is the spiritual home to about 500 families. It never faced any threat before this July 4th.

"It’s extremely disappointing that on the morning of such a beautiful day of celebration, somebody chose to perpetrate hate," Hassan Ahmed, part of the Suffolk County District Attorney Anti-Bias Council, said.

The mosque itself was not damaged and no one was hurt, but now the imam says he must reconsider his normal routine of sitting outside in his rocking chair reading his Quran.

"I’m doubting that I should do that again," he said. "Somebody can target me from far away. Unbelievable."

As part of the investigation, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office says the FBI is investigating the device that was used to burn the sign. In the meantime, mosque leaders are inviting the community to come to the mosque Saturday to denounce hate at their Eid celebration.

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