Donations coming in to rebuild burned mosque

By The Associated Press

NOEL, Mo. (AP) — Donations have topped $40,000 to help rebuild a mosque destroyed by fire this week.

The Islamic Society of Joplin launched a social media fundraiser Tuesday, a day after a fire in Noel, Missouri, destroyed the African Grocery Store and the mosque next door, the Joplin Globe reported. Both the store and the mosque were gathering places for refugees.

In this photo provided by Gregg Sweeten of McDonald County Emergency Management, firefighters from Noel, Pineville, Anderson, and Southwest City fire departments battle a blaze that destroyed a grocery store and a mosque that were gathering spots for immigrants, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Noel, Mo. (Gregg Sweeten/McDonald County Emergency Management via AP)

The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

The fundraiser is a combined effort of the Islamic Society of Joplin, the Muslim community in Noel and the Bentonville Islamic Center in Arkansas. The fundraising goal is $100,000.

The mosque and the store, which sold a range of products from Africa and the Middle East, were gathering spots in Noel. The town of 1,800 in the far southwest corner of Missouri has a large immigrant population including Pacific Islanders, Sudanese, Somalis and refugees from Myanmar. Most were drawn to Noel by jobs at a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant.

Dr. Navid Zaidi, a board member of the Islamic Society of Joplin, said it was "a great loss."

"We'd like to get them back on their feet and get the mosque going again as soon as we can," Zaidi said. "We will stand together during this difficult time for them."

The incident hits close to home for the Islamic Society of Joplin, whose own mosque burned to the ground in 2012. Joplin resident Jedediah Stout pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to prison in 2016.

A new mosque was rebuilt in Joplin in 2014.