The year 2015 is drawing to a close with a continuing wave of firebombings and apparent hate crimes at mosques in various U.S. cities, including Christmas-weekend arson attacks in California and Texas.
There were no injuries in either of the two latest fire-bombings.
But at Houston’s Saavoy Masjid, a mosque operated by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, damage was described as “significant.” A fire started at “multiple locations” around 2:45 p.m. on Christmas Day, just an hour after hundreds of people had been in the building for Friday prayers, authorities said.
The following day, someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a doorway of the Tracy Islamic Center in Tracy, Calif., east of Oakland, causing minor damage.
“The recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide is unprecedented and should be of concern to all Americans,” Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement after the California fire-bombing.
“We urge law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a hate crime and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the CAIR official said.
Islamophobia had begun boiling in many U.S. communities even before the Dec. 2 murderous rampage in San Bernardino, Calif., carried out by a husband and wife apparently radicalized online. Some Islamophobic extremists point to such criminal conduct as the rationale to justify physical and verbal attacks on all Muslims. In that mix, attempts to burn down U.S. mosques seem to growing in popularity.
In Houston, KHOU-TV reported that arson investigators were looking at surveillance video in the hopes of identifying a potential suspect.
Houston firefighters quickly put out the multiple fires in the mosque, but not before smoke spread to adjoining businesses located in a shopping center, the television station reported.
On Dec. 17, CAIR issued a report saying there were more incidents at mosques this year than any time since 2009 when the organization started tracking “damage, destruction, vandalism and intimidation” at its places of worship in the United States.
“The most-recent cycle of Islamophobia is characterized by its violent tone,” the CAIR report said.
The “most significant spike” occurred in November when 17 mosque incidents occurred, 15 of them after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. No comparable spike was observed following the Jan. 7 Paris terror attacks, with 5 incidents occurring the entire month of January, the CAIR report said.
But in the final two months of this year, Islam has become “a central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign,” the report said, referencing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The CAIR report said the incidents at U.S. mosques this year is at a level not seen since 2010 when the controversy over the proposed Park51 Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan became a political issue, the report said. “That cycle of Islamophobia was characterized by efforts to prevent the expansion or construction of mosques,” the report said.
“This lends additional weight to the argument that [current] levels of anti-Muslim sentiment follow trends in domestic U.S. politics, not international terrorism,” the CAIR report concluded.