AJC donates money to rebuild Florida mosque set ablaze by Jewish suspect
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AJC donates money to rebuild Florida mosque set ablaze by Jewish suspect

Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, where Orlando gunman prayed, was attacked by Joseph Schreiber 3 months after worst shooting in modern US history

Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on Monday, September 12, 2016, in Fort Pierce, Florida (St. Lucie Sheriff's Office via AP)
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on Monday, September 12, 2016, in Fort Pierce, Florida (St. Lucie Sheriff's Office via AP)

A prominent Jewish-American organization donated funds to help rebuild a Florida mosque severely damaged in an arson attack four months ago by a Jewish suspect and which was occasionally attended by the Orlando nightclub shooter.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) said on Friday that it presented a donation to Imam Syed Shafeeq Ur Rahman, director of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce to help with repairs.

“An attack on any house of worship is an affront to all Americans, regardless of their religious affiliation,” said Robert Silverman, AJC Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations. “Burning a mosque is a hate crime condemned by the entire American Jewish community.”

Silverman traveled to Fort Pierce to present the donation and address the Muslim congregation during Friday prayers.

“When Jews were persecuted in Europe during the time of the Inquisition centuries ago, they took shelter in Islamic lands,” he said in his speech. “Welcoming those refugees was an act of kindness that will never be forgotten by the Jewish people. Today, AJC is honored to give back in a small, symbolic way,” Silverman added.

“The perpetrator should be brought to justice as swiftly as possible and to the fullest extent of the law,” Silverman said.

Joseph Schreiber confessed to lighting on fire a mosque attended by Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Facebook)
Joseph Schreiber confessed to lighting on fire a mosque attended by Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Facebook)

Joseph Michael Schreiber, an ex-convict who has posted anti-Islamic rants online, confessed to setting fire to the mosque, and said he was embarrassed by the crime, according to an arrest affidavit released in September.

Detectives said Schreiber told them that he had set the fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The blaze also coincided with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.

Omar Mateen in an undated photo (MySpace via AP, File)
Omar Mateen in an undated photo (MySpace via AP, File)

The mosque was sometimes frequented by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 in a rampage that left 49 victims dead and 53 wounded, making it the worst mass shooting in modern US history. Mateen professed allegiance to the Islamic State group. His father is among roughly 100 people who regularly attend the mosque.

The nightclub is set to host on Monday a memorial marking six months since the attack.

Schreiber, 32, told detectives he never intended to hurt anyone. No one was injured in the fire, which burned a 10-by-10-foot hole in the roof at the back of the mosque’s main building and blackened its eaves with soot.

Schreiber, who previously served two prison terms for theft, developed as a suspect partly because of a tip from the public, the affidavit said.

He was charged with second-degree arson with a hate crime enhancement, a crime that carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

A judge noted that Schreiber had made anti-Islamic posts on social media. Last July, Schreiber posted on Facebook that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.

Schreiber, who is Jewish, stated that, “IF AMERICA truly wants peace and safety and pursuit of happiness they should consider all forms of ISLAM as radical. … ALL ISLAM IS RADICAL, and should be considered TERRORIST AND CRIMANALS (sic) and all hoo (sic) participate in such activity should be found guilty of WAR CRIM (sic) until law and order is restored in this beautiful free country.”

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