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Published: Thursday, 10/4/2012

Fueling intolerance

The prompt arrest of a suspect in this week’s arson fire at the Islamic Center in Perrysburg is welcome. The fact that the suspect is not from the Toledo area is somewhat reassuring.

Authorities in Fort Wayne, Ind., arrested a 52-year-old Indiana man on Tuesday, two days after officials say a fire was intentionally set in a second-floor prayer room at the center. Police believe a surveillance camera outside the center captured the suspect’s image.

Sadly, the Perrysburg fire was not an isolated incident nationwide. This month, fire destroyed a mosque near Joplin, Mo., that had been the site of two previous suspicious blazes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reports that mosques have been burned in at least 12 states in the past two decades.

But such incidents are rare in northwest Ohio. The Islamic Center is not just a beautiful landmark on I-75. The center, and the people of faith it serves, are integral parts of the area community.

Events at the center, such as last month’s international festival, attract people of many faiths and help build understanding. Local Islamic leaders take part in the annual interfaith dialogue hosted by the University of Toledo.

The people who worship at the center are our neighbors and friends. Everyone who calls northwest Ohio home — believers of all faiths, or members of no faith — is threatened when any group comes under attack.

The suspect faces charges of aggravated arson, burglary, and carrying a concealed weapon. He is owed the presumption of innocence. But the incident gives the Toledo area an opportunity to show that our community is not a place to fuel the fires of religious intolerance.

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