Updated 03:04 AM EDT, Fri, May 14, 2021

Houston Mosque Fire on Christmas Day Officially Declared Arson

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The fire at a mosque in Houston on Christmas day has officially been declared as arson, authorities said on Saturday, as reported by ABC News.

According to the news outlet, the blaze resulted in "significant" damage to the Muslim house of worship on South Wilcrest Drive and erupted around 2:45 PM. The joint-investigative team noted that the investigation classification has been upgraded as incendiary (meaning accidental or natural causes have been ruled out), as written in a statement by the Houston Fire Department.

It is not yet clear how much of the mosque has been damaged, but according to Fox News, the fire has spread to several other shops in the plaza where it was located.

The arson statement was backed by ATF Special Agent Nicole Strong, who said that the fire was deemed suspicious due to its "multiple points of origin," which means that a fire accelerant may have been used.

The person in charge of opening the mosque for prayer every morning, Dramane Diallo, also said that the center is devoid of a kitchen or equipment that could cause an electrical fire, which is why he found it hard to believe that it could be an accident to begin with.

The fire lasted around 40 minutes and took about 80 firefighters to contain the fire, but did not cause injuries to any individuals. However, that it is a hate crime has not been ruled out, especially considering that just about an hour before the fire began, there were about 200 people inside the mosque, as pointed out by KPRC in Houston.

Houston Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Mustafaa Carroll said, "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."

The recent spikes in hate crimes include a fire set in a mosque in Coachella, California on December 11, where a 23-year-old man was arrested. Other mosques in Arizona and Georgia have also been vandalized.

Anti-Defamation League Associate Director Dana Marks remarked, "This fire is disturbing, and it comes at a time when Muslims in our country are being targeted more and more."

However, others are not willing to believe that foul play is involved. One said that "Stuff happens all the time. I doubt it, I doubt it."

Another, Dr Muhammad Yousef, said "I know it was a short circuit. Accident. Nothing more."

Due to the damage, Chron.com reported that members of the mosque held Saturday services in an empty storefront in the same plaza, with permission from the landlord.

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