The ATF is investigating a Christmas day fire that broke out at a mosque in Houston after local authorities determined the fire was intentionally set.
Firefighters responded to the blaze around noon, just about an hour after around 200 worshippers left the Savoy Mosque following a morning of prayer. Investigators say the fire, which started at the back of the building, had multiple points of origin, indicating it was intentionally set.
Although the blaze was extinguished by firefighters in a matter of minutes, it still caused extensive damage, destroying everything inside the building. No one was injured in the fire, and worshippers simply moved their services to another temporary location.
“This is a place of worship, we’re not going to stop worshipping just because a fire breaks out,” said M.J. Khan of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.
Khan, who pointed out the most important thing was that nobody was injured, said they plan to rebuild the mosque at the same location.
Investigators collected surveillance video from the mosque as well as surrounding businesses, but have not yet announced any suspects.
“We hope the Houston Muslim community will find compassion in their hearts to forgive the person or people who are behind this. That’s what our religion teaches us,” Khan said.
“We would very much welcome those people to come to our mosque, to find peace and tranquility in their lives,” he added. “My message to everybody is to get to know Islam or get to know a Muslim and you will see we are just like anybody else.”
At this time, the FBI is not involved in the investigation because the ATF said there’s no current evidence linking the fire to a hate crime.