New Haven Launches Protect House of Worship Campaign After Mosque Fire - NBC Connecticut

New Haven Launches Protect House of Worship Campaign After Mosque Fire

There is still no break in the case following Sunday's fire at the Diyanet Mosque on Middletown Avenue. Both the FBI and ATF are supporting the New Haven Police arson investigation.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Search For Mosque Arsonist Continues

    The ATF is offering a reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to an arrest in Sunday's arson at a New Haven mosque.

    (Published Friday, May 17, 2019)

    As local, state and federal investigators try to figure out who set a mosque on fire, New Haven public safety officials have started a new safety campaign for places of worship.

    "Unfortunately, now we are talking about security measures," said Ceylan Özen Erişen, the Consul General of Turkey in Boston. "This is where we are now unfortunately."

    There is still no break in the case following Sunday's fire at the Diyanet Mosque on Middletown Avenue. Both the FBI and ATF are supporting the New Haven Police arson investigation.

    Fires at places where people gather to pray are not a new phenomenon, New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said.

    “We saw them rise in the 60s during Civil Rights movement, saw a rise in the 90s,” he said.

    Following the suspected arson at the New Haven mosque, the new city effort is focused on protecting houses of worship.

    “This is one of the projects we wanted to get off the ground," Alston said, "but its just been expedited.”

    This project is about promoting proactive measures to prevent fires, both accident and intentional, Alston explained.

    That includes increasing lighting on the property, trimming shrubbery and removing excess leaves or vegetation that could fuel a fire, setting up a neighborhood watch and keeping doors and windows locked, and making sure smoke alarms and sprinkler systems work properly.

    “It is very sad that we are talking about all these things because these mosques are supposed to be open houses of worship for everybody, ” said Erişen, who didn't expect her planned visit to New Haven during the holy month of Ramadan to come days after a destructive fire.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) checked out the damage Friday morning and he said he plans to share photos of the charred mosque with members of Congress.

    "I hope that my colleagues in Washington will be inspired to double or triple the amount of federal resources going to the security and safety of places of worship, all non-profits across the country that may be susceptible to this kind of attack," Blumenthal said.

    Sunday's fire has forced the Diyanet Mosque to hold services outside in trailers and under a tent.

    The director of Muslim life at Yale University Omer Bajwa told NBC Connecticut he is encouraged by an online fundraiser that has already raised more than $155,000 to help rebuild the mosque.

    “It's heartwarming to see the response from not just our community," Bajwa said, "but kind of globally, people that have heard about this on social media and as well of the fact that many of these people are not Muslim and they’re strangers, but they really deeply care about supporting the cause.”

    During a visit by federal agents to the mosque Friday afternoon, the ATF announced it is offering $5,000 for anyone with information leading to an arrest in the mosque fire investigation.

    There are now three rewards being offered totaling more than $17,000.

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