Dar Al-Hijrah in Falls Church, VA is one of the largest Islamic centers in the area. The 13 year old center sits on a corner lot on busy main road Leesbug Pike.
According to the masjid administration, over the past few months the security staff has found evidence that unauthorized persons entered the property at night and left trash.
Dar Al-Hijrah administration contacted local law enforcement as well as security specialists who agreed that the masjid should install a security fence to surround the property as well as lights, cameras and motion sensors.
In an unrelated incident, many cars in the neighborhood were vandalized by area hooligans last September. No vehicles or other assets on the masjid property were damaged, but Imam Johari Abdul-Malik's car, which was parked on the street, was damaged.
The administration tells The Muslim Link that Dar Al-Hijrah had a fence in past years. This fence was trampled down by people making their own entrance paths. The planned metal fence will stand for many years and will benefit the community through added security, beauty, and functionality.
"The fence will add to the property aesthetically while keeping out unwanted guests from entering the premises, particularly at night," Dar Al-Hijrah said on its website.
“We are preparing and improving our facilities for the next generation and making many structural improvements including the house as a new center for social services and meetings,” said Imam Johari.
Imam Johari says that the fence will not affect the center’s timings since the gate will be open at the same times that the masjid is currently open. “The hours have not been determined, but we close one hour after Isha, and we open for Fajr.”
According to the administration, the fence will not have any effect on Ramadan worshipers’ access to the masjid. The masjid closes after Taraweeh prayers nightly, and during the itikaf program in the last ten days the parking lot is closed after Taraweeh and opens for tahhajud.
Fences are a common structure at many houses of worship. “Dismissing the idea that the fence will send the wrong impression, Imam Johari said that churches, synagogues and temples have fences. "Why can't we have a perimeter? We have an open, welcoming relationship with our neighbors which has been cultivated through difficult times,” says Imam Johari.
Security is a concern for all American Muslim centers. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a new publication, "Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety," on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The publication was produced in response to recent bias attacks, including a series of incidents last year especially during Ramadan targeting American Muslim institutions. CAIR's guidelines, which include safety recommendations drafted by a leading security consultant, are designed to be used by masjid officials.
CAIR says the first phase of the distribution will focus on masajid in the D.C. Metro area.
Dar Al-Hijrah hopes that, with the generous support of the community, the addition of these vital improvements to their security preparedness will be complete by the start of Ramadan.