The 37-year-old man who has been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a Houston mosque on Christmas Day attended the facility for five years and prayed there five times a day.
Gary Nathaniel Moore was arrested early Wednesday morning in connection with the incident, according to numerous news reports. Moore had told investigators that he was the last person to leave the Savoy Masjid mosque on Christmas Day and that there were no signs of a fire at the time. He returned to the mosque later in the day when a friend called to tell him that a fire had been set.
The mosque sustained $100,000 in damages. According to the Houston Chronicle, 80 firefighters responded to the blaze.
Investigators fingered Moore after viewing surveillance videos from nearby businesses. A search of Moore’s home yielded a backpack and clothing which matched the suspect in the surveillance videos. Investigators also recovered a lighter fluid bottle which matched one recovered at the scene.
Moore told investigators that he had attended the mosque for five years and prayed there five times a day, seven days a week.
Before Moore’s arrest, Muslim civil rights groups immediately jumped on the arson case as an example of what they claimed is rampant Islamophobia that has spread across the nation in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights group in the U.S., called for a federal investigation into what it asserted was a possible hate crime.
“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,” CAIR-Houston executive director Mustafaa Carroll said in a statement at the time.
There have been some documented cases of non-Muslims targeting mosques. Earlier this month, 23-year-old Carl James Dial was arrested after he attempted to set fire to a mosque in Coachella, Calif. CAIR has also called for a federal investigation into whether a hate crime was carried out against a Las Vegas mosque after bacon was found wrapped around a door handle at the facility. Muslims are forbidden from eating or touching pork.
CAIR did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on the Houston incident.