ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — "All faiths matter," "Know Love No Hate" and "Hate is not an option" were the messages on some signs at a prayer vigil at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on Thursday, promoting a message of more love and less hate.
The vigil comes after an early Monday arson at the mosque, which caused substantial damage to the building. The suspect, 32-year-old Joseph Michael Schreiber, was arrested Wednesday and charged with arson and evidencing prejudice while committing offenses.
"The building is damaged, but that doesn't mean my faith is damaged," said 16-year-old Haniya Shareef, who regularly attends the mosque. "I feel like I should be angry, but I'm not. All I can do is pray for him."
Nearly 100 people gathered in the mosque's backyard for the vigil. Some held up signs and others held up candles during the vigil. About five people spoke or said prayers, including David Thompson, chaplain for the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
After the vigil ended, some walked toward the front of the mosque and held up their signs at Midway Road.
Accused mosque arsonist Joseph Schreiber 'embarrassed' by incident.
Shareef, of Port St. Lucie, spoke at the prayer vigil. She wants to clear up the misconception that some people might have toward Muslims.
"We aren't what the media portrays. We are friendly and loving people," Shareef said. "I'm an American just like any other kid."
Shareef describes the mosque as a community gathering place, where people laugh, talk and eat.
"So many kids have used this place as a place for happiness," Shareef said.
The arson comes three months after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting by Omar Mateen, who regularly attended the mosque.
Hateful comments were made on social media under articles on the arson, mosque spokesman Mohammad Malik said.
"There's not a single religion that teaches hate.That's something concocted by man," Malik said.
Small services will continue at the mosque in the rear building, but larger services will be at the Muslim Friends of Florida mosque, Malik said.
A LaunchGood campaign fundraiser was created Monday to raise money toward rebuilding the mosque.So far, $30,420 has been donated. The campaign will collect all funds through Sept. 30.
(© 2016 WTSP)