Over $750,000 raised to rebuild burned Texas mosque
A crowdfunding campaign to rebuild a mosque that burnt to the ground in southeast Texas on Saturday has raised over $750,000, almost reaching its $850,000 goal in 24 hours.
"Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the tremendous support we've received," read the campaign's statement on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe.
"The outpouring of love, kind words, hugs, helping hands and the financial contributions are examples of the true American Spirit."
The mosque in Victoria, about 115 miles southwest of Houston, caught fire shortly after 2 am local time on Saturday, according to local media reports.
The blaze was extinguished about four hours later. No injuries were reported.
The financial and moral support came from over 16,000 donors in the Victoria community as the country witnesses mass protests in solidarity with immigrants and refugees affected by President Donald Trump's visa ban on seven Muslim countries.
Donors also expressed solidarity in the campaign page's comments section and offered non-financial assistance, such as volunteer work or equipment.
"I plan on donating money, but I'd also be happy to donate time and effort as well," said Brittany Bradshaw.
Other donors showed solidarity with the Muslim community affected by the incident and defended their religious freedom despite identifying as "atheists".
"I'm an atheist and I am deeply saddened and disgusted by what was done to you," said Martin Wagner, adding that religious freedom and freedom from persecution are fundamental rights.
"We are Atheists but we are also deeply heartbroken about such an ignorant and hateful act. We stand with you in solidarity," said Marie Osborn.
Possible hate crime
The Victoria police and fire department are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to determine the fire's cause.
The Islamic centre's president, Shahid Hashmi, would not speculate about whether it was arson, but he did confirm that the building was broken into a week ago and had been subject to other Islamophobic attacks.
The paper reports that in July 2013, a man admitted to painting "H8" - a computer shorthand for "hate" - on the outside of the building.
The Saturday fire coincided with the beginning of implementation of Trump’s executive order barring passport holders of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country.
It has led to fears that such laws will feed growing anti-Muslim sentiments and give a green light to attacks in the country.
Last week, a US man was accused of unleashing an expletive-laden rant against a Muslim airline employee in New York.
"Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you," he allegedly told the Delta worker.
Advocacy groups have recorded a 67 percent surge in hate crimes since Trump won the presidential election last November.