Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach coordinator of Dar Al-Hijrah, speaks to a Fairfax County police officer who responded to the vandalism scene around the masjid. Photo courtesy of Dar Al-Hijrah.
Cars smashed, incident comes day after another Virginia masjid vandalized
Neighborhood hooligans or hate crime, either way it was a loss for the Falls Church community. On the morning of Saturday, September 15th, 2012 around 30 cars, including Imam Johri Abdul Malik’s were vandalized in the neighborhood around the Falls Church Masjid, Dar Al-Hijrah.
The windows of the cars parked were broken, however money and other valuables were not taken.
Authorities do not think that this was a hate crime. Fairfax police Capt. Gun Lee, commander of the Fairfax County police Mason District station, believes that a group of youth from a JEB Stuart High School post-game event may have been responsible. JEB Stuart High lost to Annandale High 32-27.
Lee reiterated the crimes are not considered hate crimes. The damage was random and spread over a wide area of the neighborhood.
O nly by working together can we solve crimes,” said Capt. Lee in a press conference
Fairfax County Police Public Affair Officer, Sherry Broderick told the Muslim Link that a BB or pellet-type gun damaged the cars. A few of the damaged vehicles were parked on a public street near the mosque. However, the majority of the damaged vehicles were parked in the Baileys Crossroads/ Lake Barcroft areas and the areas in between. The vandalism was widespread.
A statement released by the Fairfax County Police Department stated “It appears a vehicle drove through the area, while someone struck those parked cars with BBs or pellets.”
No vehicles or other assets on the masjid property were damaged.
Shaker Elsayed, the imam of the masjid, lives across the street from the masjid and said that there was no damage on the street before 2:30am.
According to Imam Johari, some worshipers did see broken glass on the ground near the entrance of the mosque as they arrived for Fajr but did not notice the other damage. In the w ake of the attacks in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere members of the comm unity fear a backlash.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced a reward of a $1000 to anyone with further information. The mosque security and Fairfax County Police have increased patrols in the area since Sept 11th.
Initial fears of a hate crime spread among the Muslim residents because of an incident that took place on Friday in Harrisonburg, VA. Members of the Islamic Center of Harrisonburg were shocked when they arrived for Jumuah Salah and found racist graffiti scrawled on the building. The community in the college town of Harrisonburg said they have peaceful relations with their community.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to us before, even after 9/11,” said Ehsan Ahmed to the Washington Post. Ahmed is a director of the Islamic Center of Harrisonburg mosque and an economics professor at nearby James Madison University. “We have always been welcomed here, and we participate in many community activities.”
Incidents like these can be a catalyst for the communities to come together, deepen their bonds and help each other maintain a safe place to live and worship regardless of faith. A Candle Light Vigil took place at 7:15pm on Saturday evening and dozens of people from a variety of backgrounds gathered in front of Dar al Hijrah in a show of solidarity. Imam Johri told the group to continue working together to forge relationships in the community.
A community member has offered to fix the windows that were damaged.
The Muslim community also received a lot of support from the First Christian Church in Falls Church.
Imam Johari said,” Indeed we are all one community and all of us have suffered from the extremist violence from isolated individuals. This violence is not about religion; it is a wake up call. We still have much to do in our community. Whether it is hate crimes or youth vandals, we must work together to make this a better community.” Imam Johari is the Outreach Director at Dar al Hijrah.