Guilty verdict in mosque fire sent proper message

July 24, 2018

The guilty verdict delivered earlier this month in the case of a man charged with destroying a Victoria mosque and Islamic community center sent a resounding message. The unanimous vote by a jury of five men and seven women let it be known hate crimes and the destruction of places of worship will not be tolerated in our society.

Marq Vincent Perez, 26, a father of two, was found guilty on multiple federal criminal charges, including the use of a fire to commit a felony, commission of a hate crime and possession of an unregistered destructive device in an unrelated crime.

He faces up to 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing in October by U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey.

It was a terrible crime that merits a stiff punishment. The mosque’s burning on Jan. 28, 2017, came the day after President Donald Trump moved to impose a travel ban on some majority Muslim countries.

The move has prompted great debate across the country and become a polarizing issue in many communities.

Hate crimes targeting Muslims in the United States are on the rise, according to a study released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in April.

Not all cases result in arrests, but those in which suspects are apprehended merit swift prosecution. It was encouraging to have Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division state after the jury verdict that his office is committed to holding hate crime perpetrators accountable.

Reconstruction of the building gutted in the arson are about 85 percent complete and it is expected they will be complete by the time of Perez’s sentencing on Oct. 2.

The outpouring of financial support that came forth for the rebuilding of the mosque and community center has been heartwarming. A Go Fund Me page for the center last week showed $1.12 million donated by 23,595 people.

Facebook shows a photo of the new building under construction and a sign hanging on the construction site’s chain-link fence that reads, “Rebuilding with your love.”

It may take decades for the Victoria community to heal from the hateful acts of an arsonist who burned down a house of worship, but a conviction in the case was an important first step.

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