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Churches, synagogue offer own houses to burnt mosque members

Churches, synagogue offer own houses to burnt mosque members

Houston: In a demonstration of solidarity, four churches and a synagogue have offered the use of their own houses of worship for the displaced members of a mosque that was gutted by fire in Victoria in the US state of Texas.

The Islamic Center of Victoria was destroyed in early morning fire on Saturday when nobody was in the building in Victoria city, about 185-km southwest of Houston.

The mosque, built in 2000, was the victim of a burglary on January 21 and in July 2013, a man admitted painting H8 – short hand for hate – on one of the mosque’s outside walls.

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The Islamic center’s president, Shahid Hashmi, refused to speculate about whether it was arson, but said the building was burglarised a week ago.

The incident occurred within hours of President Donald Trump announcing a ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries entering the United States.

Although Hashmi, a surgeon, said the mosque was uninsured, he took comfort in a deluge of funds donated from across the internet to a gofundme.Com page created to help the group rebuild, Victoria Advocate newspaper reported.

So far, more than USD 360,855 had been given, it said.

“Closer to home, at least four Victoria churches and a synagogue offered the use of their own houses of worship for the displaced members of the mosque,” it said.

One woman donated a handmade prayer rug.

“A guy who has a truck said, ‘I will come and haul dirt for you,'” said Abe Ajrami, a mosque member.

“When our peaceful norm is interrupted like this, I think it unites the community,” said Gary Branfman, a member of Temple B’nai Israel.

Mayor Paul Polasek said he was hardly surprised by the Victoria community’s ability to rally around their own.

“I grew up here, and I know how people are,” he said. “We take care of each other, and we are self-reliant. I’m very pleased by it, but not necessarily surprised.”

Leigh Ann Grant, whose grandfather founded Christ’s Kitchen, said when her father Allan Crouch was hired to build the now-destroyed mosque, she began to appreciate the value of respect.

“Dr. Hashmi was very kind and respectful to us,” she said in a written statement. “It was a beautiful building, too. It’s a shame it burned down.