The FBI is monitoring the investigation of a fire that caused 100,000 dollars worth of damage to a storage building at the Quba Islamic Institute on Friday morning. The cause of the blaze is still undetermined. However, The Houston Fire Department reportedly believes that an accelerant was used to spread the fire, raising the probability that it was intentionally set. The blaze began around 5:30 a.m. Friday. Although the fire did extensive damage, nobody was injured in the unoccupied structure.
Ahsan Zahid, who is the son of the Islamic Center’s Imam, told reporters that the Houston Fire Department was pursuing two theories about the fire’s origins. Arson investigators considered the possibility that a homeless person may have ignited the blaze, seeking warmth. The other theory was that the fire could have been set intentionally, by a perpetrator targeting the Islamic Center because of his or her anti-Muslim views.
The FBI is monitoring the investigation. The Bureau stated that they are not jumping to any conclusions yet and that they would become more involved in the probe if arson is determined to have caused the fire.
The fire followed a couple of suspicious incidents at the Islamic Center. A visitor who had his face concealed had to be chased off the property earlier in the week. One day before the fire was started, a man drove by the center, yelling mocking chants at the Muslims who were present at the facility.
While the cause of the fire remains undetermined, the incident took place at a time when tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States have intensified. The murder of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina earlier in the week, highlighted a growing concern surrounding anti-Islamic violence in America. That triple homicide, which allegedly escalated from a parking dispute, is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
U.S. law enforcement agencies reported 165 hate crimes in 2013 involving anti-Muslim bias. Hopefully, the nation is not witnessing a resurgence in hate crimes targeting people for their religious beliefs. The suspicious circumstances surrounding the Houston blaze make that hope difficult to cling too.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.