Crime - Sacto 911

Tracy mosque incident sparks Sacramento Muslim worries

At a mosque in Sacramento’s Southside Park, 11 men knelt silently Sunday for afternoon prayer. A few miles away in Citrus Heights, hundreds more Muslims were gathering for a dinner in the city’s community center. In ways large and small, Sacramento-area Muslims were carrying on with their lives and their faith, even amid news of another suspicious incident at a mosque, this time in nearby Tracy.

Investigators believe unknown people unleashed a Molotov cocktail at the Tracy Islamic Center on West Larch Road, triggering a fire sometime late Friday or early Saturday. The fire caused about $1,000 in damage, but no one was hurt, said San Joaquin County sheriff’s officials, who are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

In a statement, the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the attack and called for an immediate investigation.

“The recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide is unprecedented and should be of concern to all Americans,” said Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter.

The Tracy incident had a disturbingly familiar ring for Salman Mallari, 23, of Folsom as word spread about the incident. Suspected arson attacks have damaged mosques in Coachella in Southern California and in Houston since 14 people died in a Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, blamed on radicalized Muslims.

“It becomes so commonplace that you’re almost afraid to open the story,” Mallari said as he waited for the event, called “Muhammad: The Great Optimist,” at the Citrus Heights Community Center. Mallari said events such as Sunday’s with its message of “positivity in the midst of everything else,” he said, have taken on more importance in light of recent events.

Fatima Khalid, 16, of Sacramento, who volunteered at the gathering, said her worries about anti-Muslim sentiment were “psychologically exhausting,” paraphrasing the prophet’s words that there will be times when “holding onto your faith feels as hot as coals.”

Still, she said, “it is our job to be more integrated into the community, to show what our religion is about, what Muslims are really about. It’s our job to show we’re good people.”

San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputies said they were unable to locate surveillance video in the area and have no descriptions of those responsible, said sheriff’s Lt. Mike Van Grouw.

“Without any current suspects, we don’t know what the intent was,” Van Grouw said, adding that the incident has yet to be classified as a hate crime.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith