Outpouring of community support for Oregon mosque hit by arson attack

CORVALLIS — The parking lot in front of the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center filled Monday with community members and religious leaders uniting against the arson that charred the mosque’s office the day before.

“This shouldn’t happen here – it shouldn’t happen anywhere – but Corvallis is a wonderful, open community,” said Laurie Holst as she stopped by the mosque to drop off a potted plant and card. The gifts were part of a growing cluster of poinsettias, bouquets and cards placed in front of the men’s entrance to the mosque.

Holst has lived in Corvallis for more than 25 years. She went to school at Oregon State and now works there as an adviser for students in natural resources. “This is as abhorrent as what happened in Portland – this is just wrong, it shouldn’t happen anywhere or here,” she said, fighting back tears. “I want these folks that worship here to know that this is not Corvallis … it’s some redneck idiot.”

For Mohamed Siala, the director of the mosque, the outpouring of support served as a silver lining. “This is how the community in Corvallis is here,” he said as he spoke with Benjamin Barnett, rabbi at Beit Am, a local synagogue. “We want you to pray for us and use this opportunity to get closer to each other.”

Barnett said members of his synagogue planned to meet to discuss what they can do to best offer support – fundraising probably won’t be necessary because the damage will be covered by insurance. “The main thing we want to do is show solidarity,” Barnett said. “The news should be that the majority of us want to stand side by side.”

OregonLive.com, 29 November 2010