HOUSTON - Investigators with the Houston Fire Department said a fire that damaged a southwest Houston mosque was intentionally set.
The fire happened Christmas day at the Savoy Mosque located in a strip mall in the 11200 block of S. Wilcrest Drive and West Bellfort Avenue. About 200 people were inside for prayers about an hour before the fire started.
Firefighters said the fire was focused in the back of the mosque. It only took them a few minutes to put it out.
Saturday afternoon a group of worshippers gathered for their daily prayers at another temporary space in the strip center, given to them by the landlord.
"This is a place of worship, we're not going to stop worshipping just because a fire breaks out," said M.J. Khan of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.
Khan said the fire damaged everything inside the mosque, except for a holy Quran. He said they plan to rebuild in the same location as soon as possible.
Before learning Saturday evening that the fire was intentionally set, Khan urged worshippers not to jump to conclusions or spread rumors about what might have started the fire. He said the most important thing is that nobody was hurt.
The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for the fire.
"Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire," said CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll.