Islamic community breathes sigh of relief after mosque arson suspect arrested

A suspected arsonist appeared in federal court on Monday, just days after two Minneapolis mosques were set on fire.

In one of the South Minneapolis mosques, dozens of children were inside as the building began to burn, turning their daycare into a nightmare. Thankfully, despite the danger, everyone was able to get out safely.

The community says that just having the suspect in custody is helping them breathe a bit easier, after being on edge for days, literally wondering what mosque or gathering place might become the next target.

The suspect, Jackie Rahm Little, is a 36 year old with a troubled history of arson and mental illness.

"It was just surreal that the mosque that I'm sitting in is burning," said Minnesota’s Council on American Islamic Relations Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.

Hussein was thrust into action to try to put out the third-floor blaze before assisting in getting upwards of 50 children out of a basement daycare inside the Bloomington Avenue Mercy Center Mosque in South Minneapolis last week.

"You know, the flames were hot. And I could, the smoke was very thick. And, you know, I actually tried to go up and then things started falling down. And then I ran out of there," Hussein recalled.

Fortunately, no one was injured, but the blaze, one of two fires set in cherished Muslim gathering spaces in just a few days, created a ton of fear in the community. The suspect, Jackie Little, captured on surveillance video, was arrested in Mankato over the weekend. Some are questioning why, with his history of setting fires and apparent mental illness, Little was not in a secured facility, to begin with.

Court records show the non-profit, Minnesota Freedom Fund, has previously helped him make bail. In a statement to FOX 9, fund leadership wrote, "We strongly condemn harm against all people in our community, especially harm that is based on identity… We will continue to practice accountability and solidarity with our Muslim neighbors who were harmed by these acts of arson at their places of worship."

"You know, prisons are sometimes not the best answer. But regardless, you know, this is someone we need to make sure he's safe from causing additional harm," added Hussein.

The Freedom Fund wouldn’t specifically address Little’s case, explaining broadly that it will provide support to those experiencing mental health challenges, as sometimes pre-trial release is often the "only way to access needed treatment."

Little remains in custody as of Monday and is scheduled to return to federal court Thursday.