A 37-year-old man arrested Dec. 30 on a charge of arson for a fire started at a Houston mosque Dec. 25 told investigators he was a regular worshiper.
Gary Nathaniel Moore said he had prayed at the mosque for five years, and added he attended five times a day, seven days a week, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The fire broke out shortly after the conclusion of afternoon prayers Dec. 25. Moore was identified as a suspect by surveillance cameras on nearby businesses.
“Everything happened so quickly, in such a short time,” Shamim Qadri, who attended prayer with his daughter that afternoon, told KHOU.
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The total cost of damage caused by the fire was not reported, but KHOU was told by worshipers the mosque would be able to open again after plumbing and electricity were examined.
No indication of Moore’s alleged motive has been provided.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker described the arrest of Moore as an “excellent example of efficient police work.” The investigation and arrest was carried out jointly with the fire department and federal investigators.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that we have experienced a fire in a local mosque,” Parker added, the Houston Chronicle reported.
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Moore appeared in court early Dec. 30 and was charged with one count of first-degree arson, a felony.
“If this was not a hate crime, it should not be exploited as such,” said U.S. Rep Al Green. “If it was, it should be exposed.”
MJ Khan, the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, commented that he would not describe Moore as a regular attendee, and added he was not a dues-paying member of the society.
“You have absolutely no reasons to be fearful,” Khan told the Muslim community.
He also noted that support for the community had been widespread throughout Houston and further afield.
“This tragedy has definitely brought us together,” Khan added.
Bail for Moore was set at $100,000.