LANSING — State Reps. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) expressed their solidarity with the Islamic community following a fire at the Islamic Center of Ypsilanti in Pittsfield Township on Saturday, March 11. No one was hurt in the fire, and there is an ongoing joint investigation being conducted by the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI to determine the cause of the fire. No formal conclusion has been made, and authorities have not ruled out the possibility of it being a hate crime.

“Regardless of how this fire began, it is an absolutely devastating loss, and our hearts go out to those affected by this tragedy,” Rep. Zemke said. “Our community thrives due to its rich diversity. Acts of violence toward those who are different than us are unacceptable, and I sincerely hope that authorities will be able to conclude this fire was not an act of hate. In today’s increasingly divided world, we cannot afford to further alienate our neighbors simply because they may be different from us.”

The Council of American-Islamic Relations has reported that 139 incidents of “damage/destruction/vandalism” were documented at mosques last year, marking the most incidents since they began tracking in 2009. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) documented 917 hate groups operating in 2016, just 101 short of meeting the record high in 2011. Attacks against religious minorities have also increased dramatically within the first months of 2017. SPLC recorded 867 bias-related incidents, including more than 300 that focused on immigrants or Muslims.

This is not the first incident targeted at an Ann Arbor-area religious institution in 2017. On Feb. 27, a bomb threat was reported at the city’s Jewish Community Center.

“We are one community, and especially at times like these we must resist any efforts to destroy our unity,” Rep. Rabhi said. “I was heartbroken to learn of the fire at the Islamic Center this weekend, and I appreciate the authorities taking the necessary precautions to investigate whether it was a result of arson. With the environment we are living in today, such concerns should be taken seriously so that our Muslim neighbors know they are not alone, and that we stand with them.”

Reps. Zemke and Rabhi encourage those interested in supporting efforts to rebuild the Islamic Center to contact their offices for more information.