CAIRO - A wave of arson attacks against an Islamic center and houses in an eastern borough in New York City is sounding the alarm bells among the sizable Muslim minority in the United States.
We are shocked, Ali Rizdi, a mosque attendant who ran outside the mosque and began stomping out the fire, told the New York Daily Times on Monday, January 2.
We live in the US. This is our country.
A fire bomb was thrown at a a bodega at 179-40 Hillside Avenue in eastern Queens at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Ten minutes later, another crude firebomb was thrown, this time at a private home at 146-62 107th Avenue, and the house caught fire.
Half an hour after that, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation Islamic center was targeted by two or three Molotov cocktails.
We had a few members downstairs and they heard it, said Maan Lasahlan, the center's minister of religion, a Shiite Muslim.
We came out and put out the fire and called 911. Rizdi said, adding that one of the gas bombs was fashioned from a glass Starbucks Frappuccino bottle.
The Fire Department of New York said a blaze outside the Islamic center was brought under control quickly after a call came in at about 9 pm Sunday.
No injuries were reported. There was minor damage to the building.
The attacks in New York came less than a week after the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) warned against increasing attacks targeting American Muslims.
We are witnessing an unprecedented increase in rhetorical and physical attacks on the American Muslim community and Islam, CAIR said.
It added that mosques have been targeted in arson and attacks by vandals in more than a dozen states, stretching from California to New York, including the Midwest and southern states.
Police said the attacks were apparent hate crimes.
They definitely appear to be quite similar, a police source told the New York Daily Times.
We're looking into them as bias crimes.
No injuries were reported, but the home targeted on 107th Avenue was heavily damaged.
When I came to the front of the house it was ablaze already, said Monty Burnett.
It started on the front window and came into the house.
Burnett and his wife, who are African-American and Christian, were left shaken and homeless by the attack.
We're okay, said Sonia Burnett. But why me? Why my house. I didn't do anything.
The attack on their home recalled an earlier attack in April 2011, when Terry Butler, a non-Muslim, was run over with a motor vehicle.
Later on, his attacker said he thought Butler was possibly a terrorist of Middle Eastern descent, and wanted to kill him.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to eight million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was targeting their faith.
A report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender said that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.