HOUSTON - Authorities have a burning suspicion someone intentionally tried to set a mosque on fire in east Harris County early Thursday.
Firefighters arrived at ISGH Northshore Masjid Isa ibn Maryan in the 13800 block of Brownsville Street around 4:30 a.m. to find the doors on fire. They knocked out the fire before it could spread, preventing any major damage.
Investigators say the perp used an ignitable liquid on the door and slashed the tires of the car belonging to the mosque's imam. The ATF and FBI are working together to determine if this was a hate crime.
Mohammed Hunin, a mosque member who arrived for morning prayers to find the crime scene, says the alleged deliberate act is painful for his community.
"I don't want to say it's a hate crime, or some kids did it," said Hunin. "It looks like a hate crime, but it's so bad."
The mosque mystery in Cloverleaf comes just days after a federal jury found 26-year-old Marq Vincent Perez guilty of multiple felonies, including a hate crime, for torching the Victoria Islamic Center last year. The Islamic Center raised over a million dollars in funds to rebuild the mosque, which officials say will reopen in October.
"No matter what worship place it is, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhism, you're not supposed to hate each other," said Hunin. "We're supposed to love each other."
In the meantime, the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR, is urging stepped-up security for all Texas mosques.
"If surveillance cameras can be installed, that's phenomenal," said CAIR spokesperson Sobia Siddiqui. "If we can have a security guard there during most of the night, we ask for gates to be closed and remain locked, for responsible persons to take charge."
The Islamic Society of Greater Houston also released a statement:
"We appeal to the community to remain calm and have faith in the ability of law enforcement and the perpetrator(s) will hopefully be apprehended soon. The ISGH officials are fully cooperating with the investigation. As soon as the investigation is complete the Muslim community will be informed of its findings."
The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office is asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.