Residents, religious leaders visit Fort Pierce mosque to find out how they can help after arson

Posted at 5:13 PM, Sep 15, 2016

FORT PIERCE, Fla.-- On Thursday, Fort Pierce residents could be seen visiting the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce to find out how they could help after an arsonist set the building on fire Sunday night.

Kathy Gagnon was one of those trying to help.

Gagnon has been friends with Farad Khan for years. Khan prays at the mosque twice a day, every day.

"These people would give the shirt off their back for you," Gagnon said of the people who pray at the Islamic Center.

"It's nice to see all this support. That'll overcome all this hatred and evil," she added.

Khan believes the fire was purposely set because the man behind the Orlando nightclub shooting worshipped there in the past.

"If Mr. Mateen came over here once or twice, why do you label everybody as a terrorist?" he asked.

Khan said Islam is about peace, not violence, and urges others to become educated about it.

"Stop listening to various radio stations, to Mr. Trump, they're just throwing out all of this hatred," he said.

Khan said many people come to the Islamic Center to pray, some traveling from other cities to be there in time for prayer.

"What if this was a Jewish religion or a Christian religion? It's nonsense. You're praying to one supreme being. Why would you feel that mine is lesser than yours?" he said.

The mosque is getting help from some local church leaders.

Craig Bridgers, pastor at Crossings Community Church in Fort Pierce, visited the mosque Thursday to see the damage.

"A lot of good things have happened here. So, I'm just kind of devastated and saddened by what I saw inside," he said.

He's working with other local religious leaders to figure out a plan to help.

"There's a lot of emotion attached with everything that's been going on across our country and this seems to be retaliation," he said.

He hopes those who share the same beliefs as the person behind the crime learn more about Islam. "Out of that fear, it births hatred. I think it's because they really lack understanding."