The Islamic Center of Victoria, which supports roughly 100 local Muslims in the community roughly 125 miles from Houston, was completely gutted by the fire, and its leader watched helplessly as their mosque was destroyed.
“It’s a house of worship,” said Islamic Center of Victoria president Shahid Hashmi, in an interview with the Victoria Advocate while standing across the street from the conflagration. “They said it … is a restricted area for now for the investigation, so, we just prayed right here on this sidewalk.”
The was set at approximately 2 AM local time, according to local media. Tom Legler, the local fire marshal, said the cause of the fire is currently unknown, but is asking for the community’s help in determining how the fire started, and who, if arson is suspected, instigated the fire.
The timing of the fire is peculiar, given that President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee resettlement for 120 days on Friday, and indefinitely banning immigration from predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with more countries to potentially be added to the list in the future.
If the fire is indeed arson, it wouldn’t be the first time the mosque was targeted by vandals. The center was burglarized just last week, and in 2013, a man admitted to spray-painting “H8,” which is shorthand for “hate,” on the front door of the mosque.
A GoFundMe page has been launched by community member Omar Rashid for the rebuilding of the mosque. Currently, approximately $17,000 has been raised from nearly 300 people in just a matter of hours. The Islamic Center of Victoria is seeking $450,000 to rebuild.