Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mentos and Coca Cola

An Arizona mosque frequented by an imam involved in a high-profile lawsuit against airline passengers was hit by vandals early Monday with what police describe as a "pop bottle bomb."

Imam Didmar Faja says he was standing outside of the Albanian American Islamic Center of Arizona, just west of Phoenix, when the incident occurred at 1 a.m.

The plastic bottle contained pool-cleaning fluid and strips of aluminum foil, and was thrown from a red car driven by two persons. It landed about 20-25 feet from the imam, police said.

In a 10-page press release issued by the Council on American Islamic Relations, Muslims were warned to review their personal security and to "develop a list of attorneys who are willing to be consulted by the Muslim community in response to backlash incidents."

"Ask Muslim attorneys to volunteer their services to community members during this time of crisis," said the "community safety kit" issued by CAIR.

CAIR called the device an "acid bomb" that targeted the imam specifically because of the lawsuit, and called on "local and national law enforcement authorities to investigate the incident as a possible bias-motivated attack."

Glendale police Officer Matt Barnett said at least six similar incidents were reported over the weekend but none was directed at religious targets.

"Calling it an 'acid bomb' is kind of misleading," Officer Barnett said. "It was a plastic bottle with pool cleaner that expands and pops and squirts the pool acid. It's kind of like the Menthos [mints] and Coca Cola thing you see [on YouTube] -- the pressure mounts and it pops. It's not like a stick of dynamite was placed there."

"We're not ruling anything out. We've had a few more pop bottle bombs in the area, and we're concerned and want to see if there is a motive against religion or just a bunch of yahoos driving around and tossing these out the window," Officer Barnett said.

A sergeant with the Glendale Police Department said the incident is under investigation. "We are treating it as a hate crime. We are taking it very seriously," Sgt. Jim Toomey told Reuters News Agency.

Mr. Faja and five other clerics are suing U.S. Airways and "John Doe" passengers claiming they were discriminated against when they were removed from a flight last year. The passengers are named in the suit for reporting suspicious behavior.

The imams' attorney has asked a federal court in Minneapolis to close the court proceedings to the public claiming the men have received death threats.

It was not clear what the imam was doing outside of the center at 1 a.m., as prayers were scheduled for 4:30 a.m.

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