Carl Dial, 23, has been arrested on hate crime and arson charges after a fire at a Southern California mosque Friday afternoon. He was booked on five felony charges, including commission of a hate crime, arson, maliciously setting a fire and second-degree burglary, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"This was an intentional act potentially resulting in a hate crime," the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and Coachella Police Department said in a joint statement, according to NBC News.
The fire at the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley is believed to have been part of a wave of incidents perpetrated against Muslims following the San Bernardino, California, killings. The married couple responsible for that attack, which left 14 people dead, were believed to have been self-radicalized supporters of the Islamic State group.
— Amador County News (@Amador_News) December 12, 2015
Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit visited the mosque Friday evening and condemned the incident.
“It's horribly lamentable that we would paint any group as undesirables based on the actions of an extremely small number of radical folks that don't represent the religion in any way,” he said, according to the LA Times. “If in fact it was done with the mosque as a target ... it's reprehensible, and the people who perpetrated that act should be treated the way we would any other terrorist.”
The fire began as worshipers prepared for a Friday prayer service. “We were just here trying to be free and practice our religion just like everybody else,” Salahaldeen Alwishah told the newspaper.
Authorities: Fire at Southern California mosque was arson https://t.co/Nao6cEOXO5
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) December 12, 2015
Attacks against Muslims have routinely risen in the aftermath of major terrorist attacks. There have also been several reported cases of threats made against mosques in recent weeks. A mosque in Connecticut was fired upon, several mosques have been vandalized, and there have been increased reports of Muslims facing harassment.
Leaders in the American-Muslim community have come out widely against terrorism, swiftly condemning the violence in San Bernardino, and have worked with law enforcement to combat radicalization.