"We see this both as a tragedy and an outrage," Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said. "Marietta will not tolerate this; we will investigate it."
He said officials will do all they can to "solve this tragedy" and "help the resurgence" of the mosque.
Fire official are still not calling the blaze that started inside the mosque around 11:30 p.m. Monday night a hate crime, but mosque officials and the vice president of the Islamic Circle of North America are fearing that it is an act of "Islamophobia."
Naeem Baig, the vice president of ICNA, was at Wednesday's press conference and he spoke out against anti-Islamic sentiments and acts.
"Islamic Circle of North America feels very strongly that these incidents of Islamophobia are on the rise in our country," Baig said. "It is very sad to see that just a day after we celebrated Independence Day on the Fourth of July, the very next day, on the fifth of July, somebody came and decided to destroy this property, a house of worship. This is not what America is."
But Assistant Fire Chief Scott Tucker said his department does not want to classify the arson as a hate crime until it can talk to a suspect and confirm a motive.
"I look at this fire and I see it as very similar to other fires," Tucker said. "I don't think there's anything significantly different ... Until we figure out the motive, we're going to work this fire just like it was a normal fire."
Monday night's fire was reported about a half hour after a prayer service had ended at the mosque. The mosque's imam, Hafiz Inayatullah, said worshippers locked up the building and left around 11 p.m. The imam received a phone call about the fire from a member of the mosque around 11:45 p.m.
Tucker said firefighters arrived on the scene about five minutes after they got a call from a passerby who saw smoke coming from the mosque. No one was injured in the fire.
Tucker also said that there was an arson fire at a building adjacent to the mosque a few years ago, but that was set by a disgruntled student at the mosque.
The Masjid Al-Hedaya Islamic Center of Marietta has had its fair share of issues with the city, something that Councilman Grif Chalfant, who represents the area of Marietta where the mosque is located, mentioned in his brief remarks at the press conference on Wednesday.
"We've been dealing with the mosque - we had a little trouble between ourselves a couple years ago, but everything has been on a great level - we've been getting along fine in the past several years," Chalfant said. "The communities have no complaints and I've not heard any complaints from the people in the mosque. So this is just an unnecessary tragedy, and we need to get to the bottom of this and find out who did it and resolve it from that standpoint."
In 2008, a municipal court judge ordered mosque officials to tear down a deck because of issues with the mosque's building permit. One of the mosque leaders at the time, Mohammad Raza, was sent to jail briefly for refusing to demolish the deck. In 2009, the Marietta City Council denied a special land use permit for Back to the Bible Church at 601 Tower Road to sell its property to Masjid Al-Hedaya.
The mosque occupies a two-story building on 4.5 acres at 968 Powder Springs Street, a little more than a half mile from the Sandtown Road intersection. Inayatullah said there is no specific membership roster for the mosque, and instead any Muslim is allowed to come and worship. He did say about 250 people come on Fridays for prayer.
The ICNA announced Wednesday it has started a national fund for the mosque to help raise money for the rebuilding process. Although the structure of the building was not damaged, Tucker said it is unusable. He did, however, tell mosque officials Wednesday they could go into the building briefly if they need to retrieve any items.
The imam said he went inside the mosque briefly Wednesday afternoon to survey the damage with a TV crew.
"Everywhere darkness, smoke and damages," he said of the scene. "... Even the holy books have smoke. It's a lot of work to clean up."
Inayatullah said the mosque is insured, although he was not sure how much that insurance was.