String of attacks has Muslim community on edge

August 17, 2012 4:36:04 PM PDT
As Muslims gather to pray during the final days of Ramadan, some are nervous their mosques could become a target for hate.

There have been a string of incidents nationwide over the past few weeks. Local mosques have experienced similar crimes before.

This is just one of 90 Houston-area mosques increasing security heading into this weekend, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims typically mark the end of Ramadan, or Eid-Al-Fitr, with prayers and feasts surrounded by friends and family, at their local mosques.

"Sometimes I don't go outside; like me and my friends, we've been warned not to go outside so we just stay inside right here," 10-year-old Ashyum Patel said.

But the festivities have been tainted by a string of hateful attacks on mosques, Islamic schools, even one Muslim cemetery, across the country. So far this month, arsonists torched a Missouri mosque, assailants shot an Illinois mosque with rifle pellets, during prayers -- when 500 people were inside -- And vandals hurled BB pellets, eggs and oranges at a mosque in California.

"We thank God that so far nothing has happened and we are blessed that we've had no mishaps for last 27 or 30 years that we've been here," said Mohammad Ameen Marfani with Al-Noor Masjid.

While the Al-Noor Masjid leadership in southwest Houston thanks law enforcement and its neighbors for helping to keep their grounds peaceful, KTRK security analyst and former FBI agent Jim Conway says with hate crimes on the rise, local mosque leadership needs to increase security and awareness of surroundings because Houston is not immune.

"They need to put their antennas up and folks need to be concerned, particularly in the wake of what's going on," Conway said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is now calling for mosques and schools to take their own extra precautions, like 24-hour security, as they host thousands of families for the holiday weekend.

Al-Noor is already prepared to do just that.

"At those places where you have a significant number of people congregating, you want to make sure that they're safe," Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Mustafa Carroll said.

In the last year, we've seen hate crimes against mosques in Clear Lake, the Bellaire area and Sugar Land.

Suspects involved in these types of hate crimes at religious facilities face federal charges and prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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