HOUSTON, Texas – Houston fire officials are now confirming that an accelerant was used in the early morning fire that destroyed a southeast Houston Islamic community and education center. The fire began at about 5 a.m. on Friday morning at the Quba Islamic Institute. No one was in the building at the time of the fire and no injuries or deaths have been reported.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on the federal government to investigate the fire as a hate crime, according to a report by KTRK-ABC13 in Houston. “The cause of the fire is under investigation, but we’ve learned HFD says the accelerant was used, which usually points to a purposeful act,” KTRK reported.
After speaking with Houston arson investigators, Ahsan Zahid, the assistant Imam for the Quba Islamic Institute, stated, “They said their dog went through and he hit on some substances inside the place, and he said [quoting the fire official], ‘From what I see right now at this point, I have to say it was an incendiary fire which means that it was started on purpose.’ That’s all we can go on at this point. I don’t want to speculate.”
The FBI is reportedly monitoring the situation as the investigation continues.
It appears that damage to the facility was extensive. “The damage on the back building is total,” said Houston Fire Department district chief Ken Tyner. “The whole entire building back there is burned up.”
CAIR-Texas released statement Friday afternoon and, according to MyFoxHouston, “called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for an apparent arson attack on an Islamic institution.”
“Given the unprecedented level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, it would only be prudent to investigate a possible bias motive for this apparent arson attack,” said CAIR-Texas communications coordinator Ruth Nasrullah in the statement.
KTRK reported officials from the Islamic center as saying that earlier in the week, a man wearing a mask had to be chased away from the building. On Friday morning Zahid said broken furniture and other acts of vandalism were discovered. He said that on Thursday night, someone had driven by screaming mocking chants.
The portion of the facility that was damaged was a storage building where books, furniture and supplies were kept. The mosque and school were unharmed. The Facebook page for the institute contains a statement that reads:
Assalam-u-Alaikum dear Quba Family! There has been a tragic event at Quba Islamic Institute this morning. Some time around 5:00 AM this morning, a fire was started in our third building. The blaze was so hot that the complete building and all its many contents were destroyed. But, Alhamdulillah, we are alive, safe, and united, by the favor of Allah!
Preliminary investigation has concluded that the fire was started by a person. Who it was is unknown at this time. But the investigators have made clear that the fire was not accidental. Let us be clear: the investigation is ongoing. Please do not spread hate; spread love, tolerance, and harmony, just as Prophet Muhammad (S) did.
That being said: all activities will continue today, Inshallah. Jumuah Salah and Family Night will go on as planned, Inshallah.
We ask that you pray for this Institute, that Allah protect us, and make us a Light for all the World to behold.
Several people posted comments on the page expressing concern and offering prayers. Rebecca Little wrote, “praying for you all. Please know that there are Christians out here who hate what has happened and support you totally.” Laura Harper wrote, “My heart goes out to you and the children and families who come here to learn. My hope is that you can swiftly rebuild, recover and grow in safety.”
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.