On Friday afternoon , some concerning news emerged from the state of Texas: a suspicious fire broke out at a Houston mosque on Christmas Day, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It reportedly began at about 3:45 p.m. ET, and had multiple points of origin, a fact which often precedes arson investigations. And then on Saturday, the other shoe dropped — the Christmas Day mosque fire in Houston was "intentionally set," according to the fire department.
Thankfully, nobody was injured in the fire, which began after services had ended. The facts of the case immediately raised concerns that it could've been an act of anti-Islamic terrorism, and while it took until Saturday afternoon for official confirmation that the fire was deliberate, the suspicions made sense all along. Over the past few weeks, in the aftermath of the high-profile terrorist attack in Paris, France last month, as well as the San Bernardino attack in California in early December, hate crimes against American Muslims have surged.
As CBS News detailed, the Council on American-Islamic Relations wasted no time in calling on the authorities to investigate the incident as a possible bias crime — CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll made that very case on Friday.
Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire.
According to NBC News, there haven't been any arrests in connection with the incident yet, nor has any information about possible suspects been made publicly available. The FBI is reportedly joining with the ATF, the Houston Fire Department, as well as local authorities in investigating the incident. The mosque in question is located in a strip mall in southwest Houston called the Savoy Center, tucked in amidst a market, a pediatric clinic, and an Indian-Pakistani restaurant. The fire reportedly grew to two-alarm status before being extinguished.
Sadly, if this turns out to be an act of anti-Muslim violence as it strongly presently appears, it'd be far from the first time a mosque had been set ablaze and terrorized. In fact, the news of the Houston fire came just weeks after arson and hate crimes charges were filed against 23-year-old Carl James Dial, who stands accused of setting a blaze that spread through a mosque in Coachella, California. Similar to what happened in Houston, nobody was injured in the fire, but it was a much closer call — it happened right in the middle of afternoon prayers. Dial has pleaded not guilty to the charges.