CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For members of the Islamic Society of Southern Texas, a mosque fire in Victoria “hit too close to home.”
“A mosque in a Muslim community … it’s literally the heart of our community,” said Fiona Tagari, a member of the Corpus Christi mosque. “A lot of us are immigrants. We don’t have families here, so it’s where we make our families. Congregants become extended families.”
Local members, including Dr. Samer Jifi Bahlool, traveled back and forth to the site of the Victoria Islamic Center on Saturday and again Sunday after news broke an early morning fire destroyed the mosque.
Jifi Bahlool said the Victoria’s center is a sister mosque to Corpus Christi.
“Yesterday was very shocking. A lot of members were crying, including the imam (prayer leader),” he said said. “It was somber feeling. Seeing their mosque, and then all of a sudden, there’s nothing left of it.”
The cause of the mosque fire is unknown and being investigated by the Victoria Fire Marshal’s Office, the state fire marshal’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the Victoria Advocate.
In the past month, there have been two other mosque fires nationwide, including one in Bellevue, Wash., and another in Lake Travis. The Bellevue mosque was determined to be arson. Lake Travis fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire at the Islamic Center of Lake Travis, which was nearing completion and scheduled to open in the spring, according to the Austin American Statesman.
In Canada, gunmen opened fire on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec during evening prayers Sunday, killing several and wounding several others.
In Texas, Abe Ajrami, a Victoria mosque spokesman, asked the public to “not politicize the situation” and “give a chance to law enforcement” to determine the fire’s cause.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, emailed a statement to the Caller-Times about the fire. Farenthold also represents Victoria and…