The burned-out home, blanketed with ash and lacking a roof, was intended for the new leader, or imam, of the Dalton Islamic Center. Nearby on the same property, workers have been laying the foundation for a new mosque.
On Christmas, a fire at 1:15 a.m. destroyed the unoccupied home. The fire department is investigating the "suspicious" blaze that gutted a home not even hooked up to electricity.
At the same time, the Whitfield County Sheriff's Department is investigating graffiti in the same house they believe was painted on the walls during the summer, officials said.
The graffiti was obscene and included the phrase "don't come in here," but it didn't refer to Muslims specifically.
"At this time, it's not being considered a hate crime," said sheriff's Maj. John Gibson. He added, "I'm sure that the ... victims of this crime feel that it is (a hate crime)."
Hammad El-Ameen, president of the Islamic Center, said he feels that Muslims are being targeted.
"When somebody burned our house down ... they're sending a message that they don't want us in the community," he said Wednesday.
The Islamic Center sought permission from the county in May 2005 to build a new mosque. At the time, this newspaper reported some residents opposed to the site said during a public hearing that the center was building a "terrorist hideout." [Link]
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