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Officials propose $5 million for houses of worship security in wake of mosque fire

Credit: Lina Biroscak

NEW HAVEN  — Officials are proposing a plan to help houses of worship be more secure in the wake of a fire at a New Haven mosque.

Officials held a news conference to announce a legislative plan to set aside $5 million in state bonding in order to help the congregants of Connecticut synagogues, mosques and churches remain secure from violence by installing various security measures such as remote door entry systems, video monitoring systems, and shatter-proof windows – the same type of improvements the state offered public schools in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings. A Connecticut mayor says authorities have found evidence that an incendiary device or material was used to start a weekend fire at a mosque.

Federal, state and local authorities are investigating Sunday afternoon’s blaze that damaged two floors of New Haven’s Diyanet Mosque as arson .

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp says in a statement Tuesday that if it’s proven the fire was intentionally set, the city will “bring all resources to bear to bring in those responsible for the attack.” She did not detail what the incendiary device was.

Lawmakers said there have been a number of incidents in the state:

  • In late March 2019 – two weeks after a white supremacist killed 51 people in a New Zealand mosque shooting – a person threatened to burn down the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, and disparaged its members with racist and homophobic epithets.
  • In December 2016 the New Haven Islamic Center received a letter calling Muslims “vile and filthy people.” The letter was addressed to “the children of Satan” and signed “Americans for a Better Way.”
  • In November 2015 – the same month a terrorist attack in Paris killed 130 people – a man fired four rifle shots into the Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden.
  • According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 39 anti-Semitic incidents in Connecticut in 2018, including 19 instances of harassment, 19 acts of vandalism, and one assault. That is lower than the 49 total acts in 2017, but higher than the 38 acts in 2016 and the 26 acts in 2015.
  • In January 2017, as part of a nation-wide hoax, bomb threats were called in to Jewish Community Centers in West Hartford and Woodbridge.

Authorities have offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut and other groups have set up an online fundraising pages to help with mosque repairs, which had just under $60,000 in pledges as of noon Tuesday.

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