When Raveeha Mahmood heard that someone allegedly set fire intentionally to the Islamic Center of the Eastside in Bellevue, she was overcome with grief.
“After I heard what happened I couldn’t stop crying because that mosque was really important to me,” Mahmood, 20, told the Globalist.
“The Bellevue mosque was the first mosque we went to after moving to Washington,” said Mahmood. “It was a place where we met our first family friends who we had things in common with: our faith, values and even TV shows.”
The Islamic Center of the Eastside is raising $500,000 to rebuild after its building was gutted by fire around 2:45 a.m. Saturday. So far, it has raised half that amount.
KCPQ reported that Bellevue Firefighters arrived at the scene and spotted 40-foot flames on the back side of the building at 14700 Main Street in Bellevue. Firefighters were able to save half the building and no one was hurt. But until the building is restored the Islamic Center of the Eastside needs an alternate space to hold prayers.
Bellevue Police arrested Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, who faces a charge of second-degree arson, according to papers filed today in King County Superior Court. He is being held by King County Corrections in lieu of $1 million bail, which was raised from $200,000 bail set over the weekend. Wilson’s arraignment is set for Jan. 30.
According to charging papers, police found Wilson at the scene staring at the fire and he told a police officer that he set it. According to the charging documents, police officers say they found a fire accelerant on his shoes and on the floor of the mosque.
According to The Seattle Times, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office told reporters there is no indication at this point that the fire is a hate crime. However, Wilson has a history with the Islamic Center of the Eastside.
The mosque’s Imam Faizel Hassan said Wilson has visited the mosque in the past to join in the prayers, but the mosque filed for a restraining order against him in July saying he became violent and abusive, according to Q13 Fox.
Charging papers also note that Wilson was convicted last year of fourth-degree assault against a member of Islamic Center of the Eastside. Prosecutors requested an increase in Wilson’s bail because of his previous convictions and because of his history with the mosque.
The Seattle Times also reported two weeks prior to the blaze — in a separate incident — a different man was arrested and charged with malicious harassment after he allegedly threatened to kill people in the Islamic Center of the Eastside’s parking lot and made remarks about Muslims in America.
Regardless of the possible motives behind Saturday’s fire, attendees of the mosque are shaken after losing their house of worship.
“Seeing the mosque in flames hurt,” Mahmood said. “It really hurts that there are people so close to home that have misunderstood Islam so much that they hate us and want to harm us.”
Despite all the pain the fire has caused, Mahmood remains hopeful after seeing the community response.
“After seeing pictures of flowers, balloons, and all the support from the community, it gave us hope that we can rebuild our mosque and strengthen the bonds between ourselves and our faith as well as the bond between us and the rest of our community, Muslim and non-Muslim.”
'We are heartbroken. But as a community we stand together. I request everybody to pray for us. We pray for peace.' – Imam Faizel pic.twitter.com/tAORb4JeHq
— DeborahHorne (@DeborahKIRO7) January 15, 2017