HOUSTON -- At Madrasah Islamiah in southwest Houston, the sound of afternoon prayer fills the air, as does the lingering scent of smoke. It’s a grim, yet constant, reminder that someone deliberately set fire to the mosque over the weekend.
“They came through here, sprayed gasoline all over the carpet and just torched it,” said mosque member Atif Fattah.
It was 3 a.m. Saturday when the men parked in front of the mosque, cut through an alley and broke in through a window in the back. A caretaker who lives on the premises was awakened by smoke and called the fire department.
“There wasn’t significant damage,” said Fattah. “It was the act itself that’s scary.”
Surveillance video shows two young men fleeing the scene, but so far, no arrests have been made.
“It sounded very nefarious, so I called the FBI and asked them to investigate this as a hate crime,” said Mustafaa Carroll, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR says it’s seen a spike in vandalism against Muslims nationwide since the death of Osama bin Laden.
The Houston Fire Department said there’s no question this was a case of arson. Whether it was an actual hate crime has yet to be determined. The FBI and ATF are following the investigation, but at this point, they’re not actively involved.
“You have a small minority of people promoting this kind of thinking and causing people to distrust,” said Carroll.
When there’s distrust, hate is never far behind, he said.