Washington’s largest Muslim advocacy group on Thursday cautioned mosques and Islamic schools throughout the Northwest about the potential for violent backlashes in the wake of this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.
Washington’s largest Muslim advocacy group Thursday cautioned mosques and Islamic schools throughout the Northwest about the potential for violent backlashes in the wake of this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.
In an email sent to more than 70 mosques in five states, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington offered tips for such institutions to increase safety.
“News and commentary following last night’s tragic incident in San Bernardino has often focused on Islam and Muslims,” CAIR-Washington Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari wrote in the email. “In past weeks, there have been threats made against mosques in the Seattle area and other mosques nationwide, and many Muslim (organizations) have already received hateful messages that they’ve reported to CAIR.”
Among its safety tips, CAIR’s email instructed mosque leaders to contact local police immediately to request patrols around mosques and schools, especially before, during and after any events, prayer times and classes.
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The email also advised community members to watch for — and immediately report to police — any suspicious objects, persons or activities around mosques or schools.
The safety tips were distributed to more than 50 mosques and three full-time Islamic schools in Washington, and more than 20 mosques in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, Bukhari said.
As of Thursday afternoon, neither the Seattle Police Department nor the FBI’s Seattle office had received reports of threats to area mosques after the San Bernardino rampage that killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.
But threatening incidents routinely occur after high-profile crimes involving Muslim suspects, Bukhari said Thursday.
“Basically, any time an event happens where we see media coverage that focuses on a suspect’s Islamic faith, we see threats to Muslims nationwide, including in our area,” Bukhari said. “In Washington state, we’ve received our fair share of hate crimes and threats.”
After the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, the FBI in Seattle acknowledged it was investigating a comment about area mosques posted on a community Facebook page called “Last Patriots of America.”
“There are 18 Mosques in the Greater Seattle area where I live,” the post read. “I’ve got the addresses of each. Do You know where the next attack will come from? I at least know where to strike back! The only way that we can be completely free of the threat of terror is to eradicate the Death Cult masquerading as a religion from our streets!”
In an email Thursday, Seattle FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams said a review of the Facebook incident has “led the FBI to believe that it does not indicate a pending, credible threat of physical attacks.”
But, she added: “If anyone has information about potential threats, they should contact law enforcement right away.”
In a statement Thursday, Seattle police said the department welcomes requests for emphasis patrols at mosques or other institutions that may have security concerns.
“We work closely with our partners in the community to ensure the public’s safety at temples, mosques, churches, government buildings or any places people may congregate,” the statement said.
Nihal Fahim, principal of an Islamic school in Redmond with about 50 students up to age 5, said staff members and parents become more anxious after high-profile incidents that can foment anti-Muslim sentiment.
In October, Fahim canceled classes after several parents refused to bring their children to school because anti-Muslim demonstrators had organized rallies with weapons outside mosques elsewhere throughout the nation.
“The safety of these kids is my Number One concern, but there’s also an emotional part to this,” Fahim said. “These kind of incidents can be a traumatic experience for children. They don’t know what’s going on, and it’s hard to explain to them how evil people can be. And that’s something I really don’t want to explain to them at this age.”