While Christians around the U.S. were celebrating Christmas, Muslims in Texas were terrorized. After Friday prayers, the Islamic Center of Houston was set on fire in a suspected arson attack.
A man suspected of having set fire to the mosque on Christmas day was taken into custody and charged with arson on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Gary Moore, 37, is being held in the Harris County Jail in Houston.
A local official told the AP that a hate crime motive has not been ruled out.
There were no injuries in the suspected arson, but it caused “significant” damage to the mosque, according to the Houston Fire Department, which declared that the fire was intentionally set.
Muslim community members say the attack was a hate crime. Texas mosques have previously been targeted by heavily armed anti-Muslim protesters. Many Texas Muslims have said they feel unsafe in the atmosphere of aggressive hate and bigotry.Almost simultaneously, the Houston Chronicle also reported on the arrest (there was an "update" at 1:10 P.M.--it's unclear when the original story ran) but with one additional little detail. Can you spot it?
A Houston man has been arrested in connection with a suspected arson at a mosque on Christmas Day.
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the man was arrested early Wednesday, sometime after midnight, and appeared in court 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The suspect, Gary Nathaniel Moore, 37, of Houston, appeared in court at 7 a.m., spokeswoman Nicole Strong said.
According to a charging instrument released by the Harris County District Clerk, Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week.
Moore told investigators he had been at the mosque earlier on Dec. 25 to pray, and had left at about 2 p.m. to go home. Moore told investigators he was the last person to leave the mosque and saw no smoke or other signs of fire when he left. He had returned to the scene after hearing about the fire from a friend.
Though the suspect said he was a regular at the mosque, MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which operates the mosque, said he was unfamiliar with Moore.
“We are just looking into it ourselves,” he said Wednesday morning after learning of the arrest.
“We are really very surprised and saddened by this whole thing,” said Khan.UPDATE: in the ten minutes it took me to write this up, Salon pulled their story.