Officials say Houston mosque fire suspicious

Houston Fire Department.

CBS affiliate KHOU

Last Updated Dec 26, 2015 12:16 AM EST

HOUSTON, Texas -- Houston Fire Department responded to a two-alarm fire at a mosque in southwest Houston on Friday afternoon, reports CBS affiliate KHOU.

Officials said the cause of the fire is suspicious. KHOU reports that officials say they they are currently checking surveillance footage.

The fire was put out shortly after crews arrived on the scene and no injuries were reported.

Officials said they received a call about the fire around 2:45 p.m. and by 3 p.m. it was moved to a two-alarm fire.

The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Houston) called on local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for the fire, in a statement late Friday evening.

"Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire," said CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll, who is talking with mosque officials and investigators at the scene of the fire.

KHOU reports that there is no word on the amount of damage to the mosque, but officials said several other businesses in the area were damaged by the heavy smoke as well.

Advocacy groups believe there has been a spike in anti-Muslim incidents across the United States in recent weeks that can be linked to the mass shooting in California and the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates. And they say that Muslims are fearful the backlash could lead to further harassment and violence.

"The spike began with the Paris attacks and has intensified with what happened in San Bernardino and now with what Donald Trump is proposing," Ibrahim Hooper, lead spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, previously said. "I have never seen such fear and apprehension in the Muslim community, even after 9/11."

It's hard to measure the extent of the problem. The FBI, which keeps statistics on hate crimes committed nationwide, counted 154 bias offenses against Muslims last year. Data for 2015 is unavailable. The Anti-Defamation League, relying partly on complaints and partly on media reports, said it has logged more than three dozen incidents since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

"We're talking at least three dozen that we're aware of, and I'm sure there are many more incidents that haven't been reported," said Oren Segal, the director of the ADL's Center on Extremism. "With legit terror attacks and the public discourse about them, it has created an atmosphere ripe for these types of stereotypes and incidents," Segal said. "People are exploiting them."