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.
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.
Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records. A search warrant of his home was conducted, in which investigators recovered a backpack and clothing that seemingly matched that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as one half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.
No motive for the crime has been determined.
It should be noted that while this particular crime was not a “hate crime,” there has been a huge increase in crimes targeting Muslims and mosques since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. Many of those attacks are still under investigation and it is unknown if they are legitimate crimes or, like the Houston mosque fire, hoax hate crimes.
CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial and an organization with several local and national board members who have been convicted of terrorist-related activities, would seem to be a poor chronicler of anti-Muslim crimes. But there is no doubt that feelings against Muslims and Islam are running high in America and it doesn’t help when bigots like Donald Trump ramp up the hysteria.
Still, this is an object lesson for both left and right. In the rush to assign blame or score political points, the narrative frequently gets ahead of the facts, making those who engage in such practices sometimes look stupid and silly.
Not that this lesson will be adopted. It’s so much easier and more fun to attack the opposition based on nothing more than your own prejudices and ideological biases.