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A Mosque That Was Burnt Down Responds to Hate With Love

The son of the imam turns the other cheek in response to hateful social media comments.

Just two days after the fatal shooting at Chapel Hill, which killed three Muslim students, the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston was set on a fire, reportedly on purpose.

This incident further stokes the flames of a heightened sense of Islamophobia in both the U.S. and the world, following the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on January 7th and the escalation in size of anti-Islam demonstrations in Germany.

The Quba Islamic Institute serves as a mosque and educational center, according to the organization’s website. Prior to the fire, the mosque reports that it had received no threats; however, the presence of gasoline in the remains of the starting location of the fire led community leaders and the Houston Fire Department to believe that the fire was an act of arson, according to The Independent.

Darryl Ferguson, the homeless man earlier this week who was charged with the arson, told Al Jazeera America "it was an accident."

In a video posted on Quba’s Facebook page Wednesday, Ahsan Zahid, son of the imam, said they accept Ferguson's statement and had "hoped from the beginning that it was not a hate crime."

“We feel that this world has enough hate, and we have to have love and harmony and solidarity,” Zahid said.

Zahid continued this positivity and turned the other cheek in the face of hateful comments posted to the group’s Facebook page. In one such instance, a truck driver named Joshua Gray called Muslims "scum,” and in another post he wrote that he hoped a mosque "burns for every American killed by these terrorists."

Zahid responded to Gray’s comments by inviting him to Quba. Gray, who was driving through Houston at the time, accepted and spent five hours at the mosque, speaking with members and watching them pray.

"It just changed my opinion on a lot of the things I’ve seen and heard by just going in and actually talking to him [Zahid] face to face," Gray told Al Jazeera, also saying that prior to his visit to Quba he had never met a Muslim before.

After the experience, Gray posted a public apology on Quba’s Facebook page, writing,“Anger gets the better of us sometimes by things happening around the world, and in our own country, so we tend to lash out the only way we are able, which are the ones like you, who don’t like it anymore than we do. Thanks for inviting me.”

Here are some of Zahid’s responses to other nasty and intolerant comments:

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