IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Fire officials in Cedar Rapids say they
have run out of leads in their investigation of a small fire set
outside a home owned by the founder of a group planning to build a
summer camp for Muslims.
Fire investigator Al Brockhohn said he was called to analyze the
cause of a fire reported June 30 outside a brick home owned by Bill
Aossey.
Aossey is the founder of Muslim Youth Camps of America, a
nonprofit group that just got clearance by federal officials to
build a summer youth camp on the shores of Coralville Lake.
The proposal stirred opposition from neighbors, mostly for the
impact it would have on the environment, lifestyle and government
services. But it also stirred anti-Muslim sentiment and distrust
from some in the Cedar Rapids area and across the nation.
Brockhohn said the fire occurred on a chair in a concrete
storage area underneath the house. The fire was small, fueled by
paper and caused insignificant damage, he said.
Nobody was home at the time the fire was reported by a neighbor
and there is no reason to believe the fire was more than the work
of a juvenile, Brockhohn said.
"No criminal intent was there with this fire," he said. "Fuel
was available to advance the fire, but it wasn't used. It just
looks like somebody played with some things."
The case has been classified as inactive, though investigators
are awaiting lab results on evidence collected from the scene.
Aossey and his son Jalel, spokesman for MYCA, were out of the
country, according to employees of Midamar Corp., which supplies
food that meets Muslim religious standards and food service
equipment.
Aossey's other son, Yahya, did not immediately return phone
messages left Monday.
But at least one Muslim organization with ties to MYCA says fire
officials should take extra care in investigating the fire
considering the circumstances of the camp project.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of the Washington D.C.-based Council
on American Islamic Relations, contacted investigators Monday and
asked them to take a second look at the blaze. Hooper said
investigators were not aware of Aossey's prominent role in the
camp.
"Given the high-profile nature of the issue and the emotions it
stirred up, it's at least reasonable to look at this a little
closer," Hooper said. "Connections like these are not always
apparent the first time around."
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On the Net: Midamar Corp.: http://www.midamar.com/
Council on American Islamic Relations: http://www.cair-net.org/


(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)