A clerk at a convenience store informed the fire department as he spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2 a.m.
Shahid Hashmi, the Islamic center’s president, said, “It’s sad to stand there and watch it collapse down, and the fire was so huge. It looks completely destroyed .”
Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler asked for help from the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine what caused the blaze . Hashmi said authorities have told him it was too early to speculate.
The congregation’s pastor, known as an imam, was awake in the early morning hours and checked online surveillance of the mosque and found no alarm active and the doors unlocked, Hashmi said. On Jan. 21, someone broke in and stole some electronics, including laptops.
No casualties were reported yet. Fire tenders extinguished the blaze after efforts of four hours.
“When 9/11 happened, Muslims and non-Muslims, we all got together,” he said. “Of course, we will rebuild.
The Victoria Advocate on Saturday reported that in July 2013, a man admitted to painting “H8,” a computer shorthand for “hate,” on the outside of the building.
On Jan. 7, a mosque under construction near Lake Travis in Austin was burned to the ground.
CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said, “Because of growing anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation, and because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions and individuals, we urge investigators to keep the possibility of a bias motive for this fire in mind.”
There’s been no determination yet for the Austin blaze , Diane Kanawati, with CAIR-Austin, said Saturday.