Houston fire officials suspect arson in the fire that burned an Islamic center early Friday morning, reports the Houston Chronicle.
A building that was recently purchased by the Quba Islamic Institute for a planned community center was destroyed, but firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it reached the center's mosque and school.
"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," the center wrote in a statement on Facebook this afternoon.
A son of the center’s imam said it was possible that the fire was started by a homeless person trying to stay warm. And the Quba Islamic Institute’s Facebook page urged its followers not to jump to conclusions.
“Let us be clear: the investigation is ongoing. Please do not spread hate; spread love, tolerance, and harmony,” the statement read.
The Center for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the U.S., is asking investigators to investigate the suspected arson as a hate crime.
“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's Texas Communications Coordinator Ruth Nasrullah in a statement.
In 2013, there were 135 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to the FBI. While the instances of anti-Muslim crimes have more or less plateaued over recent years, the number is still about four times as high as it was prior to the attacks on 9/11.
A call for comment to the Houston Fire Department was not immediately returned. The investigation is ongoing.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.