Suspicious Fire At Somali-Owned Restaurant in Grand Forks

Sadness and disappointment in Grand Forks, after a Somali-owned café is gutted by fire just days after being the target of racist graffiti.

Officials say the fire appears suspicious and could have been started on purpose.

The fire at Juba Coffee and Restaurant caused $90,000 in damage.

But there’s determination to keep it from damaging the relationship between the city and its Islamic population.
 
The fire at Juba Coffee and Restaurant broke out around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Firefighters say the blaze was likely started by an incendiary device.

The fire happened just days after the business was tagged with Nazi-inspired graffiti, along with the message “Go Home”.
 
“It’s certainly something that’s very disturbing. It’s hard to believe that something of this nature is happening in a community like ours,” says Muslim worshiper Dr. Abdur Ayoob.
 
The message is very different at the Grand Forks Islamic Center.

A homemade sign asking Muslims to “Stay Here” greeted worshipers at the door.
 
“It has been an overwhelming outpouring of support”, says Dr. Ayoob.
 
North Dakota State Representative Corey Mock says the national discourse, led by politicians like Donald Trump, is fanning the flames of intolerance.
 
Mock says, “So when you hear the rhetoric that’s happening on the campaign trail classifying groups of people and lumping them into one targeted, one defined group, and you use the word terrorism, and it incites fear.”
 
With politicians like Trump calling for a halt of Muslim immigration, people in Grand Forks say tolerance needs to start at the local level.
 
“We’re just regular people”, Dr. Ayoob says. “We’re just trying to make lives better for our families, our kids, and incidents like these makes us concerned for their safety.”
 
“We can’t judge a person by their religion any more than we can by which football team they cheer for on Sundays,” adds Mock.
 
On a positive note, a GoFundMe page set up to help Juba has nearly reached its goal in less than a day. Visit the page here.

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