A few months ago Mayor Don Freitas charged that the owners and managers of the Vista Diablo Mobile Home Park were terrorizing the park residents with confiscatory rent hikes and threats to open the park to all age groups. Last month Willie Mims, a Pittsburg resident representing the Black Political Association, charged that the Antioch Police Department's Community Action Team is terrorizing families receiving Section 8 housing subsidies by knocking on their doors at 11 p.m. and asking intrusive questions.
These are serious charges, but in both cases the "T" word was being used with a bit of hyperbole.
Unfortunately, last week in Antioch we had a true act of terrorism: the burning of the Islamic Center of the East Bay mosque on East 18th Street. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the blaze. Unfortunately, the fire did some $200,000 worth of damage.
But the damage was not only to the mosque building; it also damaged the reputation of the city of Antioch - a city that does not need further damage to its image.
City officials have done the right thing by reaching out to the local Muslim community, providing space in the Nick Rodriguez Community Center for services and offering city help in finding those responsible for the crime. If any good can come out of this, it is that formerly narrow lines of communication have opened between Muslims and the rest of the Antioch community.
The war on terror is not just something being waged on the other side of the world. Terror has now hit Antioch, and we must fight back. A good beginning is to apprehend and prosecute the arsonist(s) to the full extent of the law. Twenty years to life in prison might be an appropriate punishment for such an act of terror. If you have any information on this fire, call the arson tip line, (866) 502-7766.
In the meantime, we hope that the mosque will either be restored at its current location or that a new, better mosque is built elsewhere in the city. We recommend that video surveillance equipment be installed as well, not only to deter acts of vandalism, theft and arson, but to put the perpetrators away for a long time.
And we look forward to the local Muslim community becoming more integrated with the rest of Antioch and East County by holding open houses in the new or refurbished mosque, and sponsoring and participating in community events.