Soon after President Donald Trump assumed office and rolled out an executive order on banning Muslims from Muslim majority countries, a mosque in Texas was lit up in flames.
A clerk at a nearby convenience store spotted the Islamic Center of Victoria completely enveloped in flames and called the fire department. The mosque was completely incinerated by the time the fire brigade arrived.
Marq Vincent Perez, the suspect was in court to face a case in which he is accused of setting fire to his neighbor’s car as a result of a personal dispute. The suspect in line of the mosque fire was named for the first time in the hearing as the prosecutors used his alleged burning of the mosque and car fire incident to argue that he be held without bond.
Perez allegedly set a Texas mosque as he thought the worshippers inside were terrorists connected to ISIS and were hiding weapons. In a Facebook post he revealed that he was allegedly prompted to burglarize and set fire to the mosque because he believed Muslims might “go underground” due to the increase scrutiny. By setting fire to the mosque he wanted to make an attempt to call out members of the mosque as terrorists.
According to law enforcement agency, Parez also expressed that he was protecting his community as he believes Muslims marry children. He further called Muslims “towel heads” and “rag heads.”
He also spoke about President Trump before burning the mosque.
“Hard to track them and know what they’ll do since Trump is claiming to send them all packing,” Perez said in a thread about his disdain for Muslims. “[Hard to know] how to know how many will go underground or be hid by [Democrats].”
Parez also expressed on Facebook that his arson attack on the mosque was an act of protecting the community.
“Everyone lives in a bliss of ignorance, that war never comes to us, that only us soldiers, tired and forgotten, are the only ones armed and ready,” said prosecutors.
Prosecutors further added that a confidential informant explained Parez had knowledge of the security at the mosque.
“It tells me that he’s spent some time watching this mosque,” Rick Miller, ATF agent testified of Perez’s comments.
Rick Milleralso noted in his testimony that Parezserved in the military for five weeks. He alsoclaims on his Facebook page to have served in the U.S. Air Force. However, when asked, the U.S. Air Force did not immediately respond to confirm Perez’s service.
The confidential informant who was with Perez on the night of the fire further explained.
“After stealing an electrical meter, a laptop, cell phones, and unidentified personal items, Perez lit a fire inside the mosque. He then told the informant that he had done something in the mosque and that soon everyone would know about it,” the informant told Miller.
Judge Janice Ellington noted that there were enough reasons to deny Parez bond and sent him back to the custody of the U.S. Marshals as he was“involved in a hate crime that is presently being investigated” and loaded guns were also found in the home where he lives with an infant and a toddler.
The recent hearing indicates Perez will eventually be charged with setting fire to the mosque. However, up to this point, he has only been charged with possessing a destructive device—several large firecrackers taped together that he allegedly intended to use to set fire to the neighbor’s car.
Hate crimes have seen a sharp spike following Trump's election to the presidency. As results of the election rolled in, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim crimes also rose. Hijabs were pulled, people of color were attacked and the attackers often chanted Trump's name.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mohammad Khursheed