Tossed and torn Qur'ans lay atop maroon prayer rugs. Shards of glass from broken windows lay on the gray carpet and on the street. That was the sight that greeted worshipers at the Ivy City Educational Center and Mosque in Northeast DC on February 24, 2015.
“We have a big shelf—our library—with books by Ibn Kathir [and other scholars]. He dropped that on the floor, grabbed a chair and hit the big, original windows of the building and broke two of them,” says masjid co-founder Mohammad Mobaidin. The vandalism occurred sometime between 6:30 -8:00 p.m.
Two days later, the masjid was vandalized again in the early hours of Thursday morning. Furniture was broken, and wall hangings were ripped off the wall. In a rather bizarre twist an extra large piece of art depicting the Kaaba was stolen from the masjid. "Police are puzzled; it is starting to look like a hate crime," Mobaidin told the Muslim Link.
Police initially said they do not believe this was a hate crime because there were other incidents of vandalism in the Ivy City neighborhood, including a car parked near the masjid which was damaged.
Mobaidin says there was no visible sign of a hate crime—no graffiti—but the second incident within the same week changed his mind. “They just took the wall hanging off the wall and broke things and left,” he said.
This time the police have fingerprints. Community activists say these incidents should be investigated as a possible hate crime. Mobaidin said that is happy with the cooperation the masjid is receiving from the Metropolitan Police which assigned a detective to the case who is investigating the vandalism as a potential hate crime. Agents from the FBI also visited the masjid.
As attacks on masajid and Islamic schools increase nationwide, some area Muslims are concerned that – afraid to strain relations with local law enforcement – masjid leaders won't aggressively push police to investigate these incidents as hate crimes.
On Thursday morning, the doors to the Ivy City Masjid were locked. Vandals reentered from the broken windows, broke the railings, destroyed the podium and furniture and ripped out wall hangings of verses from the Quran. “That indicate[s] to me, this might be some kind of hate crime," Mobaidin said.
He doesn’t like the idea of installing cameras when people are worshiping, but Mobaidin said the masjid must start taking appropriate security measures. Inner city masajid can barely pay to keep their lights on.
He initially thought the damage was done by someone from the homeless shelter down the street who missed the shelter's 7:00 pm closing. “They need medical attention as a lot of them don’t take [their] medication and knock over garbage cans,” said Mobaidin.
"Something is not right here," Zainab Chaudry of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said. CAIR pledged a $500 reward for information about the crime.
The Ivy City masjid was established in 1997 in a high-crime part of the District but never had any hate incidents before. The street where the masjid is located was abandoned and used for illegal activities. The masjid cleaned it up and lit up the street.
“People live in these neighborhoods who are just trying to live their lives, and they aren't criminals or constant victims,” say students who attend universities near this neighborhood.
"We know the neighbors; they celebrate iftar with us, they socialize with us. A lot of Muslims live in the neighbor and walk to the masjid to pray."
Rudy Abdel Rahman, from College Park, heard about the incident through his local Dar-us-Salaam community. He hopes the effort to help the Ivy City masjid makes the DMV community more united and ushers in greater cooperation between area masajid.
Almost twenty years ago, Mohammad Mobaidin drove past a dark street in a North East DC when he saw a man beside a stalled car. He knew it wasn’t a safe neighborhood so he stopped and offered him help.
The man turned out to be a visiting imam from Jerusalem. As the two men started talking the imam asked Mobaidin what he done for the faith.
“Well Shaykh, I want to build a masjid but for that I need a million dollars,” he replied. The imam replied incredulously, “No, you don’t. Show me what you have here.”
Mobaidin showed him a warehouse that he had purchased for his business. “Here is you masjid,” said the imam. He stayed at the behest of Mobaidin for six months and helped him set up, then returned to Jerusalem where he was building a sister masjid... he also built an orphanage,” said Mobaidin. “We sent a group of Muslims to visit him in the early years, but haven’t heard from him since 9/11.”
Currently Imam Ahmad from Pakistan is the imam of the masjid.
“The [community members] are okay and even more determined to come to the masjid. We just didn’t know what [this attack] was, if we know that it was someone sick then I would feel much better than [if it is] a hate crime because we don’t expect [a hate crime] in this neighborhood,” says Mobaidin.
Worshipers usually leave after businesses in the area closed, especially during the winter season. Previously, the masjid stayed open all day and all night and tried to help people get off the streets.
“We tried to [host] sabeel (travelers) for three days, open the bathrooms for people to use to take showers and clean themselves,” said Mubaidin, adding that the practice was discontinued because he masjid couldn’t afford the water bills.
The masjid doesn’t host fundraisers— a simple donation box suffices.
Gallaudet University students used to pray at the masjid on Fridays, but now the university hosts Jummahs on campusa and discourage students from walking around in the neighborhood.
The damage initially was a few thousand dollars, but the need to get security cameras and additional security measures will cost the center additional funds. Islamic Centers, churches and synagogues have reached out to the masjid. An online fundraiser and an after juma' appeal at Dar-us-Salaam in College Park raised over $10,000 as of this report.
“Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu 'alaihi wasallam) once remarked that the most beloved places on the earth are its masjids while the most loathsome places to Allah are its marketplaces. May I challenge you to do whatever you can to help our brothers and sisters? They are the custodians of this house of Allah. May I ask you to take the funds you were planning to spend while shopping this weekend and spend them on this masjid?” asked Imam Safi Khan of Dar-us-Salaam in an email sent to several thousand local Muslims.
Mohammad Mobaidin visited Dar-us-Salaam and Al-Huda School on Wednesday, March 4, thanking the community for its support and recounting some of the positive outcomes of the vandalism, including unity between Muslims and other local religious communities.
To help the masjid you can send a check to Ivy City Educational Center and Mosque 2001 Gallaudet St. NE Washington, DC 20002 or donate online at: http://www.youcaring.com/mission-trip-fundraiser/help-heal-the-ivy-city-masjid/312455#.VO55aTMjdM0.facebook