[Editor's Note: Dr. Mahjabeen Islam was president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in 2012, a year in which the Perrysburg mosque was struck by arson.]
At first Randy Linn pleaded not guilty in the Sept. 30 arson fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, then he was guilty and now he wants to change his plea again. And with his vacillation he strings along a community that is riding up and down the roller coaster of emotion.
The Islamic Center mosque had received an eerie threat in August 2012 with the word “stopped” printed in Arabic and a period on the wrong side of the word. Just beneath the word was a smiley face in grease. The address had been put together with stick-on letters in various fonts.
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, had begun and there had been successive attacks around the country on mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim families. The Joplin, Mo., mosque had been burned to the ground.
Many ICGT members felt insecure and we decided to have security during prayer services and during our community iftars, or breaking of the fast meals. Perhaps the security during Ramadan prevented Randy Linn and other attackers from injuring or killing people. It is difficult to tell.
What was certain was that three months in jail for the arson at the Islamic Center had failed to inject Linn, a 52-yer-old truck driver from St. Joe, Ind., with perspective or remorse.
During a hearing on Dec. 19, Linn was sworn in in Judge Jack Zouhary’s U.S. District Court in Toledo. Under oath, he blamed Fox News for inciting him to commit the arson: “I saw a person with no arms and no legs, one of those wounded in the Afghanistan or Iraq, and I just jumped up and did it,” he said in court.
The U.S. attorney contested that claim, stating that two weeks before the crime Linn had told his son that he was planning the arson.
Linn alternately blamed Fox News and alcohol, claiming that he had consumed 30-45 beers during the six hours before he set fire to the prayer hall. He was drinking inside the Islamic Center and said under oath that he had tried the various outside doors and after he found one that was unlocked he went all over the Islamic Center and “cleared all the rooms."
Video surveillance shows Linn armed with a handgun while inside the Islamic Center.
It was revealed at the hearing that Linn had stopped at a gas station and filled containers with gasoline, and had no problem locating the not-so-easy route to the Islamic Center. Very flatly, Linn said that he wished the arson “had not happened, but it’s too late now.” He insisted that it was Muslims who were responsible for the killing of American servicemen in foreign lands.
Zouhary repeatedly asked Linn if he had been counseled by his attorney and understood the binding plea agreement. To all of the judge’s questions, Linn was clear that his acceptance of the binding plea agreement was with full understanding and after counseling from his attorney.
The evidence included video surveillance of his crime, Linn provided details of the arson under oath, and DNA evidence linked him to the fire.
Perhaps the gravity of 20 years' imprisonment had not sunk in and now some inmate’s advice leads him to want to change his plea.
I wonder on what basis he could be not guilty? Listening to his account of the crime as well as his anti-Muslim tirade during the hearing, there seemed no evidence of insanity. His account fit perfectly with the video surveillance and his beer drinking inside the Islamic Center.
Our wounds have come unscabbed. The process of closure that had started seems to have screeched to a halt. While Linn tries to save himself, my community must relive the shock, numbness and tears and renegotiate the stages of grieving.
Randy Linn said he wanted to vindicate American servicemen's deaths and disabilities. I wonder whether he knows that more Muslims have died in George W. Bush’s War on Terror than Americans have.
Does Linn know that America kills innocent men, women and children in its drone strikes on Pakistan on a weekly basis? That the American use of depleted uranium has increased cancers among Iraqis and will destroy future generations who will have birth deformities and might live to die of cancer?
His favorite channel, Fox News, didn't broadcast all the facts and only perpetuated the insult that American lives are somehow more valuable than Muslim lives. Linn flailed at Muslims for not believing in Christ as the Savior. I know what Christ would think of this hatred. Linn doesn’t and Fox News doesn’t care.
And a person with that kind of calm hatred shouldn’t be given the opportunity to commit more hate crimes.