Man arrested on suspicion of setting fire to Houston mosque on Christmas day
A 37-year-old man has been taken into custody and charged with arson, suspected of starting a fire at a Houston mosque on Christmas day, officials said on Wednesday.
Gary Moore was booked on Wednesday and being held at the Harris County Jail in Houston. No attorney was listed for him in online records.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Houston Field Division said a hate crime motive had not been ruled out, though there was no evidence of that yet.
The Islamic Center of Houston, which is in a strip mall, caught fire after Friday prayers when it was mostly empty. No injuries were reported, but the fire caused major damage to the center.
Anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the rise in the United States, stoked by recent Islamic State-related attacks in France and California and anti-Muslim statements by Republican presidential hopefuls.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which tracks such incidents, said the scale of vandalism, damage and intimidation at American mosques this year is the worst in the six years it has kept records.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)