People in the Oregon town of Corvallis are showing their support for an Islamic center that was partially destroyed by an arson attack after it emerged a 19-year-old alleged terrorist had occasionally worshipped there.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in Portland to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction after his arrest Friday.
Authorities say Mohamud and an FBI operative parked a van full of dummy explosives on Southwest Yamhill Street across from Pioneer Courthouse Square just after sundown Friday while thousands gathered in the square for the annual tree lighting. Mohamud is accused of attempting to detonate the explosives.
The arson attack happened after it was revealed that Mohamud had attended the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center while going to Oregon State University.
However, in the parking lot in front of the charred there was a growing cluster of flowers and cards, offering support in the wake of what religious leaders and community members say is an abhorrent act of arson.
A candlelight vigil was also planned for Tuesday night, according to a report.
"This shouldn't happen here — it shouldn't happen anywhere — but Corvallis is a wonderful, open community," Laurie Holst, a resident of the town for 25 years, told as she left a potted plant and card.
"This is as abhorrent as what happened in Portland — this is just wrong, it shouldn't happen anywhere or here," she told the paper, which said she fought back tears as she spoke. "I want these folks that worship here to know that this is not Corvallis."
The that 45 people attended a meeting Monday night to voice their anger and disbelief at the arson attack in a place they had viewed as tolerant of different religions.
"I love our little 'bubble,' but it's been popped," Laurie Childers told the meeting, the paper said.
The Gazette Times said a candlelight vigil was planned to be held by Rev. Elizabeth N. Oettinger, of the First Congregational Church in Corvallis, Rabbi Benjamin Barnett, of the Beit Am synagogue, and others outside the center Tuesday night.
They hope to draw thousands of people to form a circle round the building.
Barnett also told The Oregonian local Jews were going to meet to discuss ways of showing support for the center.
"The main thing we want to do is show solidarity. The news should be that the majority of us want to stand side by side," he said, according to the paper.
Mohamed Siala, the center's director, told The Oregonian the reaction was what he expected from the people of the town.
"This is how the community in Corvallis is here," he said.