In the wake of the fire that gutted a building owned by the Quba Islamic Institute last Friday, people have taken to social media to air their thoughts and opinions about the suspicious fire. Go figure that a lot of those thoughts have been remarkably ugly and lobbed directly at the Islamic community center.
Within hours investigators with the Houston Fire Department told Imam Zahid Abdullah that it looked like the fire was started using accelerants, a strong indication that the fire wasn't an accident. (HFD officials announced that Darryl Ferguson, 55, had been arrested and charged with felony first degree arson late Monday, according to KTRK.) The center posted this information on Facebook and has also been fielding questions from people interested in making a donation to help the center.
But in addition to a lot of good will from social media, people have been posting on the Quba Islamic Institute's Facebook page with comments that run the gamut from snide glee to blatant bigotry. The fire is the first serious incident that has occurred at the institute since Abdullah opened it about two years ago, he says. That has made some of the negative comments on social media that much more shocking, he says. "It definitely makes you think and wonder why people think that way," Abdullah says. "It's a very simple thing. You have to understand that we are here to promote love, that's all. That's what the prophets Mohamed, Moses and Jesus have demonstrated all their lives and we have to be followers of those teachings."
Below are some examples we pulled:
Abdullah admits that it's been hard to read these online comments and not respond, but he's still telling his family and members of the institute to resist the urge to engage. Getting down on that level would go against everything the institute stands for. "That's what I teach people and what I talk about, being the best human. The best people are good for other people, and that's what I have taught my people and my children. That's how we're approaching all of this. Getting angry doesn't do anything for us. Why should we do that?"
So they're doing their best to ignore the ugly comments, he says. There's still not much of a plan for moving forward. "We haven't even slept since this happened. I don't know what comes next."
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Meanwhile, some people have noticed the comments and waded in to speak out against the negative commenters:
Abdullah and the members of the institute are trying to focus on that.