Fire destroys Texas mosque hours after Trump's Muslim ban

Fire destroys Texas mosque hours after Trump's Muslim ban
A Texas mosque was ablaze on Saturday night shortly after a Muslim-ban order was signed by President Trump, sparking fears that Islamophobic arsonists targeted the place of worship.
3 min read
28 January, 2017
The fire coincides with Trump's signing of a Muslim-ban order on Friday [Anadolu]

An early-morning fire has destroyed a Texas mosque that had been a target of hatred in the past, local media reported on Saturday.

According to The Victoria Advocate, a convenience store clerk spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2am on Saturday and called the fire department.

Jeff Cowan, battalion chief for the city's fire department, said firefighters and police officers found the mosque completely consumed in flames when they arrived.

The blaze was extinguished about four hours later. No injuries have been reported.

Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler has asked for help from state and federal fire investigators to determine what caused the blaze.

As investigators began their work, almost 20 members of mosque conducted the first prayer of the day on the sidewalk across the street from the destroyed mosque.

The Islamic centre's president, Shahid Hashmi, wouldn't speculate about whether it was arson, but he did confirm that the building was broken into a week ago and had beens 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 mosque has a congregation of 100 members. Victoria is about 115 miles southwest of Houston.

The Saturday fire coincides with the beginning of implementation of an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on Friday, barring passport holders of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the 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.

Since then, several US mosques have received have reported receiving a hate-filled letter from California telling Muslims to leave the country or "face genocide".

The letters appeared to be photocopies of a handwritten note referring to Muslims as "vile and filthy people" and saying that Trump would do to Muslims what Hitler did to Jews.

"There's a new sheriff in town - President Donald Trump," the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy organisation for Muslims in the US, quoted the letter as saying.

"He's going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And, he's going to start with you Muslims."