Explosion outside Long Island mosque investigated as possible hate crime

Hate crimes officers are investigating after an incendiary device exploded outside a mosque on Long Island, damaging a metallic crescent moon that is a symbol of Islam.

A device similar to a Molotov cocktail exploded around midnight Sunday at the Masjid Fatima Al-Zahra mosque in Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison told Newsday. No one was injured, and the only reported damage was to the silvery crescent outside the facility.

Surveillance video showed the moments leading up to the incident followed by the explosion and crescent moon set on fire.

Imam Ahmed Ibrahim said he was inside the mosque after performing prayers when he heard an explosion and thought it was Fourth of July fireworks. But when he looked outside, Ibrahim said, he saw the crescent on fire and "people coming from the street, trying to put out the flames with dirt."

The Suffolk District Attorney said the ball of flame was caused by someone using a container filled with an accelerant. 

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No one was injured, but the imam said the damage to a symbol that is analogous to a Christian cross left him feeling hurt. "We are so peaceful here," Ibrahim told Newsday. "We have good relations with everybody, good relations with the neighbors, good relations with other religions."

Harrison said his department's arson and hate crimes units are investigating the attack. He said officers are scouring social media to see if anyone is chatting online about the incident.

"A hate crime towards the Islamic Muslim community is a hate crime toward all Suffolk County residents," Harrison said at the mosque on Tuesday. "This is something that everybody should be angry about."

With the Associated Press