When Mohanned Qutu, the president of the Sachse Muslim Society in Sachse, Texas, was reviewing blueprints for a brand new mosque, he noticed the layout covered a wall of complete-length home windows.
“Given what’s been happening in the global the final couple of years,” Qutu advised HuffPost, “it just made not unusual sense” to keep away from the potential for a security chance.
Qutu and the constructing committee agreed to raise the home windows to 5 toes off the ground for the safety in their congregations. It was a small element, Qutu stated, but one his team couldn’t forget about, especially throughout Ramadan.
“We usually go overboard so we may be prepared,” Qutu, forty eight, said.
Muslims around the sector were bothered in March whilst a white supremacist opened fireplace on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers, killing 51 worshippers. Later that month, a mosque in California changed into set on fire. A notice left on the scene referenced the New Zealand bloodbath.
The rash of violence has many Muslims concerned as mosques put together for their busiest time of 12 months ― the month of Ramadan, which commenced Monday, whilst congregations accumulate to interrupt fasts and attend overdue-night prayers. Mosque leaders across the u . S . A . Have sought professional assist to relaxed their centers in guidance for the worst.
Nezar Hamze is a deputy sheriff, a subject instructor and a educated rescue driver with a disaster intervention team based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the past four years, Hamze has traveled to over one hundred seventy mosques throughout the U.S. To supply protection and protection trainings and checks, hoping to help members of the Muslim community shield their lives as well as their mosques.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, as a minimum 15 U.S. Mosques were attacked in 2018. In February of that yr, a person threw a huge rock through the glass the front door of a county Islamic middle in Virginia. The next month, two Arizona girls were arrested when they took a set of youngsters to vandalize and thieve materials at a mosque. Two months later, burglars stole money from donation packing containers in a Houston mosque, then vandalized the premises with derogatory phrases and urinated at the carpet.
During the first few months of 2017, a mean of 9 mosques had been targeted each month. In a number of the ones instances, a couple of incidents befell within the equal metropolis or the equal mosque.
Hamze’s in-intensity schooling, that could cost among $500 and $2250 relying on the topic and the wide variety of classes, covers what to do if an active shooter assaults a mosque. It additionally gives steering on bomb threats, evacuation plans and popular protection practices in the course of times of massive congregation like Ramadan or Friday prayers. Hamze can evaluation a mosque’s ground plans and meet with its safety group; he also gives his services to different Muslim facilities, together with personal Islamic faculties.
The Florida-based totally officer said the bloodbath in New Zealand distressed him however did no longer wonder him. He is involved similar attacks ought to happen in America.
“I’m now not surprised if it’s going to appear once more,” he stated. “It’s only a be counted of when and wherein. So we need to make sure the network has the expertise, abilities, equipment and training to guard themselves.”
Demand for Hamze’s offerings surged after the New Zealand shooting, and again after final month’s synagogue taking pictures in California ― the suspect inside the latter case has also been charged with the mosque fireplace in March. But Hamze, 42, has advised Muslim communities to be proactive at all times, not just within the wake of attacks like these.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton in Florida turned into among the mosques that immediately called Hamze after New Zealand. The event spurred mosque contributors to severely overview their safety plans, Rami Aboumahadi, a member of the mosque’s protection and protection team, informed HuffPost. Especially at some stage in Ramadan, they didn’t want to take any chances.
“It just have become greater essential for us to take more organized steps to make certain that some thing like this in no way takes place here, or if God forbid it does come to appear, to minimize [the outcome],” Aboumahadi said. “It’s guidelines we with any luck in no way need to use, however God forbid some thing happens, we at least have an idea what to do.”
The middle spends hundreds yearly on safety, and it hired armed guards to circle the premises at some stage in Ramadan this 12 months. But Aboumahadi stated it’s just as vital to be in my view prepared similarly to hiring personal safety. Ramadan will quickly come to an stop, however the protection education will remaining beyond that.
“[Hamze’s training] is something that the common Joe might not have the skilled eye for. So to pay attention it from that expert attitude is honestly precious,” Aboumahadi stated. “Alhamdullah [thank God], having him within the community is a extraordinary asset.”
One of the largest mosques in Central Texas, the North Austin Muslim Community Center, has been centered 4 times inside the beyond several months. Last week, a suspect turned into seen on video pouring gasoline on the edges of the constructing and trying to mild it on fireplace. Police have no longer but caught the attempted arsonist.
The Austin mosque has considering that reinforced its safety features, and is operating carefully with regulation enforcement a good way to understand the arsonist and deter other attacks. The imam advised HuffPost the middle has already spent lots of greenbacks on security this 12 months on my own. With Ramadan in full swing, the mosque has also implemented 24-hour surveillance and hired private protection.
“We need to do the whole thing we can after setting our accept as true with in Allah that we take the way essential for human beings’s protection as nicely,” Islam Mossaad, the imam of the network middle, told HuffPost.
The Austin center has had its share of harassment. Vandals slashed human beings’s tires within the parking lot ultimate yr, and at the least one of the broken cars was reportedly urinated on. In September, the mosque’s doorways and windows have been smashed at some stage in an overnight attempted theft that cost the mosque thousands of bucks in damages. Later that month, worshippers discovered their tires slashed once more inside the parking lot.
In Westchester, New York, Saad Gewida has taken new measures for his mosque, in which he has been an imam for over 10 years. The Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center in no way used to rent formal security practices, largely counting on volunteers to patrol and protect the premises at some stage in Ramadan prayers, additionally known as taraweeh prayers.
But given the continued assaults on U.S. Mosques, and in mild of the New Zealand massacre, Gewida stated it changed into too volatile not to do so. He has hired personal security to shield the entrances and exits to the mosque each night. The mosque holds daily iftars, or meals for breaking one’s speedy, accompanied by means of taraweeh prayers that almost two hundred Muslims attend, many bringing dad and mom, youngsters and family of every age and backgrounds.
“If a person dies, then it’s over. A character’s life has ended,” Gewida told HuffPost. “This way, we’ve got covered our human beings and don’t positioned them in risk, and our community contributors had been relieved to pay attention that we’ve got chosen to do so.”
Gewida is thankful that their mosque has no longer faced any most important hate crimes like the mosque in Austin, but he advised other Muslim leaders to crack down and cozy their houses of worship.
“[Mosque board members and imams] are the ones responsible within the eyes of God. If, God forbid, something occurs, God will preserve those people responsible,” Gewida stated. “We want to act proactively and provide a area where human beings can be spiritually and physically safe.”
In Sachse, Texas, Qutu employed complete-time security for Ramadan ― now not handiest for the nighttime prayers but additionally at some point of the fajr prayers, which take region at sunrise.
He’s already wondering beforehand to the subsequent Ramadan. The plan is to put in a safety lock that requires visitors to be buzzed in.
“There are quite a few good human beings around us,” Qutu said. “But we simply pass greater on the safety measures. Just to make sure.”