According to Ahsan Zahid, son of the imam at the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, Texas that was partially damaged in a fire in the early hours of Friday morning, there had been a couple of suspicious events that had occurred in the days before the fire broke out.
Fire officials examining the cause said that no one was hurt in the blaze and the center remains fully operational because only one of the three buildings had been destroyed.
Zahid went on to say in a video uploaded on the institute’s Facebook page that although he was told by fire officials that the blaze appeared to be the work of an arsonist, the Islamic community should not assign blame until the full details were discovered.
According to Reuters, Zahid said that a man had to be chased from the property earlier in the week, but he could not be recognized as he had his face covered. He added that the day before the fire broke out, a man drove by the building yelling insults to the name of Allah at a number of members.
“We were leaving the premises, and a person driving a pickup truck was chanting in Arabic phrases, like terrorists do before they explode suicide bombs,” said Zahid.
Although the Houston Fire Department (HFD) said that it may take several days before the result of their investigation would be concluded, an unnamed official told Reuters that it appears that an accelerant was used in the blaze.
According to the Texas office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the estimated cost of the damages to the institute is over $100,000. They are calling for the authorities to make a complete investigation, because they believe that the attack was intentional and other Islamic centers in the area may be in immediate danger.
Islamic students in the Houston area were shocked to hear about the suspected arson attack on the Islamic center, according to Javid Sultan, president at the University of Houston’s Muslim Student Association.
“We’re trying to be more proactive because you never know when something like this happens,” stated Sultan. “It’s getting pretty scary, and very close to home, being harassed based on our faith.”
A message posted on the Quba Islamic Institute’s Facebook page reads in part:
“Sometime around 5:00 AM this morning, a fire was started in our third building. The blaze was so hot that the complete building and all its many contents were destroyed. But, Alhamdulillah, we are alive, safe, and united, by the favor of Allah!”
The message continues to say that officials have made it clear that the fire was intentional, but since the investigation is ongoing, they ask all followers of Islam to spread love, tolerance and harmony instead of hate, just at the Prophet Muhammad did.
“We ask that you pray for this Institute, that Allah protect us, and make us a Light for all the World to behold,” the message concludes.