CORVALLIS, Ore. (RNS) Rain didn’t stop the Corvallis community from showing up in swarms at a candlelight vigil Tuesday (Nov. 30) outside a mosque that was hit by arson after an occasional worshipper was charged in a terror plot.
Residents came by the hundreds, sporting winter rain gear and umbrellas, holding their hands over their candles to protect the flame.
The vigil outside the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center was organized largely by local religious leaders to unite the community after the mosque was hit by arson early Sunday morning.
The fire, which charred the mosque office before it was contained, was ignited after the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, of Corvallis, on suspicion of plotting to bomb a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland. Mohamud occasionally prayed at the mosque.
Local residents have visited the mosque in the days since to offer support and let the Muslim community know that “this is not Corvallis.”
“This doesn’t represent Corvallis in the slightest bit,” said Kevin Skillings, an industrial arts teacher at Corvallis High School, a few blocks away from the mosque. Skillings said he came to support his former and current Muslim students, many of whom spend their lunch hour Fridays praying at the mosque.
Lisa Gonzales huddled with friends under umbrellas after the vigil, while the crowd formed a ring around the mosque. Gonzales said when she found out about Mohamud’s arrest and learned that he lived in Corvallis, she immediately feared for the mosque.
“I’m saddened and distressed, but not surprised,” she said.
Mayor Charlie Tomlinson, Beit Am Synagogue Rabbi Benjamin Barnett and Islamic Center Director Mohamed Siala spoke to the crowd. They thanked participants for braving the chilly rain and uniting against the “abhorrent” act of arson.
“I would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation for those who came to the center,” Siala said. “This is what Corvallis is all about.”