It was around midnight, and Abdul Kamir Krambo's phone rang. The woman on the line was in hysterics.

"The mosque's on fire, the mosque's on fire!" Krambo recalled her saying.

It was Aug. 31, 1994.

Krambo lived about a block away from the Islamic Center on Tierra Buena Road.

He ran out his front door. There, standing in bare feet and still in his robe, he watched his temple burn.

"My heart jumped into my throat," Krambo said.

By dawn, the new, 12,000-square-foot mosque was almost completely destroyed.

The fire was an enormous blow to the Muslim population in Yuba City. Questions of why and how leapt into the minds of those whose place of worship was now a pile of ash.

It was called a hate crime. The subsequent investigation showed conclusively that it was a case of arson. Prayer rugs had been soaked in gasoline and ignited.

The FBI became involved. Investigators had viable suspects, but lacked the evidence for a conviction. To this day, no one has been arrested for the fire, and the case is now closed.

The tragedy prompted an outpouring of support, not just from fellow Muslims, but from Christians, Sikhs, Mormons and Hindus.

Churches wrote letters of support and donated money to rebuild the mosque. The entire community rallied around the notion the truest way that justice could be served was to show the arsonists the fire didn't destroy their spirit, it was reported. In 2000, the temple was rebuilt.

The entire story was chronicled by David Washburn, a Bay Area photographer and filmmaker. His film, "An American Mosque," will be shown at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sutter County Library at 750 Forbes Avenue, Yuba City.


Building a community

On the 20th anniversary of the fire that destroyed a local mosque, religious leaders are hoping to use a film by David Washburn, a Bay Area photographer and filmmaker, as a springboard to once again spark discussion about why it's important for different faiths to connect with each other — to understand each other, for the betterment of the community.

"As devastating as the fire was, a lot of good came out of it because a number of different faiths stepped up to lend their voice and support," said Gerry Sandu, president of the Yuba-Sutter Interfaith and Cultural Council. ""We feel like that goes missing sometimes. That's why the film is important — it shows a terrible thing happened, but it brought the community together."

Krambo said the film supports the notion that different religions need to support and understand each other to affect the community in a positive way.

"In a polarized world like we have now, that's an important thing to emphasize," Krambo said.

The event is presented by the Sutter County Library and co-sponsored by the Yuba Sutter Interfaith and Cultural Council, the Punjabi American Heritage Society, and Islamic Center of Yuba City.

"We all live in the same communities. We work and play with each other, but we don't always understand each other, and a lot of times we make assumptions and those can lead to misguided prejudice," Sandu said. "Our goal is to open up the community and create dialogue to better understand each other.

"We all want the same things, and we have very similar beliefs," Sandu said. "As a result of better connecting, we can have a more vibrant community."


Know & Go

"An American Mosque" will be shown at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sutter County Library at 750 Forbes Avenue, Yuba City.

The film explores the tradegy of the destruction of the Islamic Center of Yuba City in 1994 and shows how members of different faiths rallied together to rebuild the mosque.

CONTACT reporter Andrew Creasey at 749-4780 and on Twitter @AD_Creasey.

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