Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 21, 2013

FBI on mosque probe

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GREEN VALLEY — An act of vandalism and desecration to a Mercer County mosque continues to draw a strong response from the local community and beyond. On Friday, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia said that his office and the FBI will work with local authorities to investigate vandalism to the Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region Worship Center.

“The vandalism of any place of worship violates our country’s most sacred values, so the defacement of the Islamic (Society) of the Appalachian Region is an affront to all of us,” Goodwin stated in a press release. “My office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working closely with local authorities and will pursue this matter aggressively.”

Goodwin isn’t alone among federal officials eager to see the matter resolved. During a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Bluefield Area Transit Operations Facility, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., asked about the status of the investigation into the vandalism at the I.S.A.R. Worship Center, and expressed hope that the person or persons involved “are brought to justice,” he said.

Likewise, members of the Bluefield Ministerial Association prepared and distributed a statement condemning the vandalism at the mosque. The statement follows:

“Earlier this week the Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region, in Green Valley, West Virginia, was targeted by vandals. This attack was both hateful and unwarranted. This alarming incident is the antithesis of our Appalachian values, as well as the values of each of our respected religious traditions.

“The Greater Bluefield Ministerial Association strongly condemns this act of bigoted vandalism. The use of religious imagery to defame this structure is abhorrent. More than that, it is contrary to the spirit of love and respect to which we all profess.

“We consider any attack on the Islamic Society and its membership to be an attack on our entire community and on each of our own houses of worship. We hope to see justice done in this situation. Further, and perhaps more importantly, we want the perpetrators to see the wrong they have done, to repent, and to make amends for the sins they have committed.

“The GBMA considers the Mercer County Islamic Center to be an important asset to our community. Members of the Islamic Center are pillars of our community and the center has made a concerted and considerable effort to enhance our region.  In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “…we must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish as fools."

“We believe that it is important that local authorities keep the public informed about the progress of the investigation into this vandalism. We also strongly encourage anyone with information about this case to contact the police. Together we can help maintain our community as a place of freedom and respect.”

The statement was signed “In Faith,” and included the following area religious leaders: The Reverend Stephen Rector, Pinnacle Rock Charge United Methodist Church; The Reverend Susan Rector, Trinity UMC; The Reverend Russ Hatfield, Tazewell Episcopal Cluster; The Reverend James Palmer, Mt. Zion Baptist Church; The Reverend Don Scott, First UMC; The Reverend W.D. Hasty, First Presbyterian Church of Bluefield; The Reverend Chad Slater, Christ Episcopal Church; The Reverend Dr. Bradley H. Scott, First UMC; The Reverend David Hall, Bland Street UMC; Rabbi Stanley Funston, Congregation Ahavath Sholom; The Reverend  Ken Sprinkle, Virginia Ave-Falls Mills UMC; The Reverend Jonathan Rockness, West-minster Presbyterian Church.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com