CAIRO – One month after the fire destroyed Joplin mosque, leaders of Missouri Muslim community are trying to start reconstruction of the worshiping center, moving forward with support from the interfaith community.
“It is the center for everything,” Imam Lahmuddin, Joplin mosque’s imam, told Washington Post.
Last August, an arson attack burnt a Joplin mosque in southeast Missouri to the ground.
The mosque’s roof was previously destroyed in a similar arson attack on July 4.
No injuries were reported in the attack, but the building of the Islamic Society of Joplin was a total loss after the blaze.
Investigations were launched by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Jasper County Sheriff's department.
The Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) urging it to investigate an incident targeting Muslims as a federal hate crime.
Immediately after the fire, Imam Lahmuddin opened up his home for prayers and gatherings for about 40 families in Joplin Muslim community.
The basic need is a worship space, but the old building also had areas for teaching and social activities.
Supported by the interfaith community, the Islamic Society of Joplin received financial backing from across the country.
An online fundraiser for a new building has raised more than $400,000, surpassing the $250,000 goal.
However, when it comes to solid procedures for the mosque construction, there is no timeline for construction yet, and no structural plans.
Another challenge is setting the location for the new mosque.
Some members think the new mosque should be at the same site — along a quite road outside the city limits.
The idea is opposed by others who think it should be built somewhere else, closer to the heart of the city.
Seeing the fire as a blow to the city, interfaith leaders supported their Muslim neighbors, extending their hands to the new mosque.
“It kind of shattered this illusion that we were this strong, unified, all-on-the-same page-kind of community,” Mark Statler, a pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin, said.
Noting that the fire has destroyed the so called “we are Joplin” mentality, Statler added that the response to the fire has reinforced the sense of community which rallied together in the aftermath of the 2010 tornado.
The mosque imam, however, said that the fire did not represent what the “real Joplin” is, adding that the real Joplin is the support the Islamic community has received from people of different faiths.
Jill Michael, a pastor at South Joplin Christian Church, said many of the Christian leaders involved in the advertisement have divisive doctrinal differences, yet they came together for the Islamic community.
After the attack, Statler’s congregation members wrote encouraging notes and delivered a basket of cards to the Islamic community.
Another congregation, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, hosted an interfaith iftar for Joplin Muslims who used to organize a special iftar during Ramadan at their mosque.
At the end of the Muslim holy fasting month, about 300 people from five different churches gathered with the Muslim community at a hotel convention center to celebrate `Eid al-Fitr.
A group of religious leaders also signed a full-page advertisement of support in The Joplin Globe, the local newspaper.
Some churches posted the words “love thy neighbor” on their signs.
Sojourners, a national Christian social justice organization, threw in its support with an electronic billboard message: “Love your Muslim neighbors.”