An Oklahoma City Muslim congregation is preparing for one of its biggest holidays of the year, buoyed by community support in the aftermath of recent mosque vandalism.
Hassan Ahmed, imam and director of the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City, said he and other leaders of the mosque, 3201 NW 48, have continued with preparations for Eid-ul-Fitr on Sunday despite an Aug. 12 vandalism incident.
Vandals shot paintballs at the mosque's doors about 2:45 a.m. Aug. 12, Ahmed reported to police. He said he was inside the building reading and thought the mosque was being hit with gunfire. The paint was removed Sunday and nothing else was damaged, he said.
Ahmed said he is unsure how much information about the vandals would be gleaned from surveillance camera footage, which was given to police. He said police added extra patrols and the mosque's leaders still are considering hiring security officers.
Even so, the imam said he and other mosque leaders are strongly encouraging Muslims who meet for prayer at the house of worship to attend Sunday's Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. He said more than 1,000 Muslims attend prayer gatherings at the mosque each week. Eid-ul-Fitr is the elaborate festival that follows the Ramadan fast. During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from food, drink and sensual pleasures from sunrise to sunset.
Ahmed said mosque leaders do not want people to feel intimidated by the act of vandalism.
“We'll go on as planned,” he said.
“We actually explained to our community that they should come, they should not be scared. This incident should not discourage people from coming — it should encourage people to come.”
Ahmed said he is aware that Muslims from across the state have expressed their support for the mosque, nestled in a quiet, older neighborhood near NW 50 and Independence.
Indeed, leaders of mosques affiliated with the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, condemned the paintball attack. The Muslim leaders said they support the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City community and they expressed their desire to see the vandals arrested.
“We, the Islamic Society of Norman, believe that this act does not represent the majority of the people of the state of Oklahoma. Oklahomans have always shown the tolerance and the acceptance of different beliefs and creeds adopted by other Americans. However, we do recommend that extra efforts be spent to spread the word of respect and understanding among our people, and to increase our good communication so that we can have a harmonious society and live in peace and justice,” said Samir Alwazzi, a member of the Islamic Society of Norman, in a prepared statement.
Imad Enchassi, imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, expressed similar sentiments.
“It is hard to believe that there are still individuals who would commit such an act of hate,” Enchassi said. “As Oklahoma Muslims, we keep our mosque doors open to the public and our arms and hearts are always open to those who want to learn about Islam. We believe that lack of information is what leads to acts such as this one.”
Shafi Chaudry with the Islamic Society of Edmond said his local faith community was saddened when they learned about the vandalism.
“We hope that the authorities will energetically investigate this as a hate crime to prevent escalation and the likelihood of copycat perpetrators,” he said.
Ahmed, a native of Somalia who became a U.S. citizen, said his mosque community is grateful for the support of the Muslim community. And he said he is particularly heartened by the many emails, cards and letters of support from people in the Christian community.
“Both Muslims and Christians support us alike, but what makes me particularly happy is when people of other faiths support us,” he said.
“I cannot describe it. It's just amazing the reports and letters we are receiving.”
We actually explained to our community that they should come, they should not be scared. This incident should not discourage people from coming — it should encourage people to come.”