Ahmed Elbenni

A fire that broke out in a New Haven mosque on Sunday afternoon was intentionally set and is now the subject of a federal investigation, officials announced Monday.

Seven days into Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven on Middletown Avenue caught fire, leaving the house of worship uninhabitable. On Monday, in a press conference outside of the Mosque, New Haven Fire Chief John Alston told the public that the damage to the mosque was the result of arson. Elected officials in Connecticut quickly condemned the violence, which echoed recent threats and attacks on houses of worship both locally and nationwide. Officials declined to release further details, citing an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

“This was intentionally set,” Alston said at the press conference. “Any time there’s an event like this in a house of worship, anywhere in the United States, it triggers a response of both the ATF, the FBI and state and local authorities. That has happened. We are going to continue the investigation as it moves from now a fire emergency to a criminal investigation.”

Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 told the News that he had been to the mosque several times and personally knew many individuals — Turkish Muslims like himself — who worshiped there regularly. The city has posted a $2,500 reward for information that helps determine the perpetrator of the attack.

By Monday evening, an online fundraiser was launched with the goal of raising $10,000 for the Diyanet Mosque’s restoration. That initial target was met in less than three hours, and the fundraiser has raised almost $70,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

The arson echoes other violence or threats of violence in recent months. In St. Landry Parish in south Louisiana, three historically black churches burned down within two weeks of each other in March and April. A suspect has since been charged with the hate crimes in addition to three counts of arson.

Around the same time, threats of violence shook the Muslim community closer to home — a man from Enfield said that he wanted to burn the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, which serves a diverse population of Muslims. The threats rocked the community, particularly in the immediate wake of two consecutive terrorist attacks that resulted in 50 deaths and 39 injuries in Christchurch, New Zealand.

New Haven and Connecticut’s elected leaders uniformly joined together to condemn the acts of hate and violence. Governor Ned Lamont SOM ’80, standing outside the mosque, described the New Haven attack as “especially hurtful and hateful” because it targeted “what people believe” and “a religious house of worship.”

Officials at various levels of government echoed Lamont’s condemnation and expressed their solidarity with the Muslim community in Connecticut and beyond.

“I stand in solidarity with CT’s Muslim community as new details emerge about a deliberately set fire,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote on his Facebook page. “We condemn and denounce this act of violence toward a place of worship, especially during Ramadan.”

The investigation is now in the joint hands of New Haven, the state of Connecticut and the federal government.

Individuals are asked to call the investigation hotline at 1-800-842-7766 with any information about the attack.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu .