Texas Mosque Fire On Christmas Called Suspicious

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CBS (Houston)–A two-alarm fire damaged a storefront mosque Friday in southwest Houston, and federal officials are saying the blaze has suspicious origins.

The fire was extinguished shortly after firefighters arrived, and no one was injured. But 200 people had been inside Savoy Masjid, the Arabic word for mosque, for Friday prayers about an hour before the 2:45 p.m. CT fire was reported, Houston fire officials said.

“To me it will be very hard to understand that something can happen like an accident, like electrical,” said Abdul Hurmane who opens the mosque daily.

Few people were at the shopping center because of the Christmas holiday. Several other businesses in the shopping center were damaged because of the heavy smoke.

“With God’s grace, no one was hurt and nothing happened,” shopping-plaza owner Imran Momin told the Houston Chronicle. “It happened on Christmas, thank God. So God was looking out.”

The fire has multiple points of origin, which points toward potential arson, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials said late Friday. Investigators, who are called routinely to fires at religious institutions, will be checking surveillance-camera video recorded inside the mosque for clues.

No suspects have been identified.

The fire may be the latest in a string of crimes against Muslim houses of worship since a husband and wife, supposedly inspired by Islamic extremists, killed 14 people Dec. 2 at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, Calif.:

* On Dec. 4 in North Palm Beach, Fla., the Islamic Center of Palm Beach had a dozen windows shattered. Joshua Killets, 27, of Juno Beach, Fla., faces a variety of charges in connection with the vandalism, including hate crime.

* On Dec. 11 in Coachella, Calif., Carl James Dial, 23, of Palm Desert, Calif., is accused of firebombing the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley mosque. He pleaded not guilty last week, and his next court appearance is Monday.

* On Dec. 12 in Hawthorne, Calif., southwest of Los Angeles, vandals defaced a pair of mosques – the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque and the Islamic Center of Hawthorne – the next day. Investigation into those crimes is ongoing.

* Also Dec. 12 in Macon, Ga., graffiti that included the profanity and the word “terrorist” were spray painted on the Islamic Center of Macon. No suspects have been arrested in that case.