Area mosques step up security after massacre
BY ELIZABETH LLORENTE
At the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, congregants are being extra vigilant these days — looking for anything that might signal a potential attack or vandalism.
Mosque officials have also asked Teaneck police to patrol the surroundings more.
In Paterson, mosque officials at the Islamic Center of Passaic County are also stepping up scrutiny of suspicious activity around the mosque, even if it's just an unfamiliar car in the parking lot or on the street near the place of worship.
Across the nation, mosques are taking heightened security steps following the shooting last week at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 dead and dozens of others wounded. Muslim and Arab organizations advised mosques to increase security after learning that the suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was Muslim — and that they could be at risk of bias attacks.
"There was a car by the mosque that we didn't know," said Mohamed El Filali, ICPC's outreach director. "I saw a man by the car and I told the imam, 'Maybe I should go out and see what he's doing.' [The man] said he was trying to fix something on his car. I asked if he needed help. He said no, and I went back inside.
"We have the regular security we've always had; the cameras are rolling, people have their eyes more opened. We have not received any particular threat, but we're just taking extra measures for safety."
Hasan's religion has become an issue since investigators said the psychiatrist allegedly made efforts to reach out to radical Islamists.
Muslims and others, including President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, have stressed that religion should not be seen as the cause of the massacre, and that Islam condemns violence.
The Dar-ul-Islah mosque has made a point of condemning the Fort Hood shooting on its Web site, as well as reiterating that Islam is about peace.
"We're suggesting that mosques nationwide ask for stepped up police patrols in their area," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. "Some mosques have received threats, but we haven't seen a major backlash except for e-mails, hate e-mails."
There are fears of a backlash against Muslims in the aftermath of the shootings at Ft. Hood.