The man accused of setting fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Florida a week ago is an ardent supporter of Israel who labeled all forms of Islam as “radical.”
Joseph Michael Schreiber, a 32-year-old messianic Jew, was arrested at his home in St. Lucie, Florida, on Wednesday and charged with arson and a hate crime. Police say he confessed after his arrest.
His attack is part of a spate of anti-Muslim hate crimes since the start of the current US election season.
The mosque he set ablaze has been regularly attended by the father of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen and the crime was committed on 11 September, which marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The attack was also the night before the Islamic center was due to hold a community celebration for Eid al-Adha.
An affidavit by the St. Lucie County Police Department describes Schreiber as “a habitual felony offender,” meaning that if convicted he could face up to life in prison due to Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws.
The affidavit also notes that Schreiber’s Facebook page was littered with “anti-Islamic postings,” “posts related to pro-Israel propaganda” and “negative propaganda related to Muslims.”
Police estimate damage to the Islamic center in excess of $100,000. As of Friday, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce reported it had received more than $30,000 in donations from well-wishers to help it repair the extensive damage.
A hate crime enhancement was added to the charges after police discovered the social media posts.
Media outlets were quick to publicize Schreiber’s anti-Muslim postings, but few mentioned his promotion of pro-Israel propaganda or his admiration for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, two great champions of the anti-Muslim far right.
According to Schreiber’s Facebook page, he is also a fan of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, IDF Women, the Israeli American Council of Florida and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America.