Belief

Houston Muslim School Burned Down In What Investigators Say Is Likely An Arson Attack

The arson attack was the third incident of Islamaphobic violence this week.

Unfortunately, the execution of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill was not the only Islamophobic violence that happened this week. The same week, an Arab American family was assaulted in Dearborn, and now in Houston comes a horrible story of what appears to be an arson attack on an Islamic school for young children.

The Quba Islamic Institute opened in January of 2013 with the goal of doing Sunday school, summer school, and after-school programs for young children as well as host other Muslim events. Here's a photo from children there shooting hoops they posted yesterday on their Facebook:

And here's what happened to the school overnight:

Early this morning Houston firefighters responded to this blaze which was part of a fire taking place in one of the buildings of the school campus. After an investigation, they determined an accelerant was used to cause the fire, most likely an incendiary device.

I spoke to Ahsan Zahid, the son of the imam at the institution. Zahid described the scene early this morning when they arrived at the school to find it on fire. As the investigation was ongoing, the firefighters asked them if they “had thrown around a desk in a parking lot” – it soon became clear that school property had been smashed overnight, most likely intentionally.

Zahid also described a suspicious person they saw last night, “We had a person in a white pickup truck..who had just last night drove by our mosque as we were playing basketball outside at night getting ready to leave...chanting Arabic phrases, mocking us in a way.”

“I would like for my community...not to reach for hate, not to point fingers at anyone, not to criticize anyone,” said Zahid about how they plan to move forward. “I believe that since we have been wronged it is not necessary to be angry at the one who has wronged us...everybody has united nobody has said a single word of anger or hatred towards anyone.”

Elsewhere in Houston, Abdullah Shakur, a Muslim Vietnam veteran, was at a car stereo shop on Tuesday night when masked gunmen decided to attack it. Its unclear what the gunmen wanted, although it is possible it was a routine robbery. Shakur left the others he was with and tackled one of the men. “He knew they had guns. He was trying to defend us,” said one witness to the incident. The gunmen then shot him. “It was execution-style. And the fact that they executed Shakur, they need to be brought to justice. He was a Vietnam War veteran. He was lovable, always smiling. He was trying to protect us,” said the witness.

Despite the hate Muslim Americans have endured, the case of Shakur and the graciousness of Zahid shows that they continue to love the country they live in – and want to work to make it better.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

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