MPAC Urges U.S. Mosques To Be Extra Vigilent Against Possible Attacks
(Washington, DC - 5/15/07)—The Muslim Public Affairs Council today urged Muslim American leaders community and mosque leaders to take extra precautions to ensure the security of their mosques and community centers, after receiving a phone call from the FBI informing MPAC that FBI agents are investigating threats against a Florida Muslim leader and two mosques this week.
SEE: “Years After 9-11, American Muslims Increasingly Targets of Hate” (Florida Sun-Sentinel, 5/7/07)
In the years since 9/11, Florida’s Muslim community has witness an inordinately high number of vandalism and arson attacks against its institutions. In December, a man who stepped outside of a mosque in Melbourne, FL to use a cell phone was shot at five times, one bullet barely missing his head. In April, a Tampa mosque was burned to the ground in an arson attack. Also in April, an Islamic school in Cooper City, FL discovered white powder spread across the campus, which turned out to be non-toxic.
The alarming increase in anti-Muslim attacks is being witnessed across the country. Last week, the office of the U.S. Attorney Eastern Division and the FBI announced an indictment against a Philadelphia woman who sent a threatening note to her employer at the hotel where they both work.
In all of these incidents, engagement and dialogue with federal and local law enforcement has proved an effective tool in accessing resources to ensure the security and well-being of all Muslim Americans. Both leaders and community members have an important role in ensuring the safety of their mosques, schools and community centers.
Since May 2004, MPAC’s National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism has offered mosques a set of proactive community-led guidelines and resources in order to protect mosques, communities and the country. It also supports Mosques in developing ongoing relationships with interfaith groups and law enforcement officials. Click here to find out more about the campaign!
Creating a secure environment is a three-step process: Assessment, Planning and Implementation. You may wish to consult with your local police and/or hire a professional security firm for assistance in this process. MPAC urges mosques and religious leaders to utilize the following security guidelines effective immediately:
Be watchful, ready, and willing to report “suspicious” or unusual activity.
Regularly inspect your building. You should be able to quickly ascertain if something is amiss and help law enforcement if there is a problem - report anything out of place, missing, or does not appear to belong.
Ensure that security devices are turned on and functioning, that outdoor lighting is working, that windows and fence lines are kept clear of bushes and that access to your building is appropriately limited and consistent with fire codes.
Share ideas and suggestions about security and safety.
Help create a culture that is both secure and welcoming.
Support the board and professionals as they make the decision to create and implement an effective security plan.
Identify Targets for Protection - Identify what you need to protect (e.g., people, property and data) and what makes those things vulnerable.
Build Relationships with Law Enforcement - The importance of developing and maintaining a working relationship with your local law enforcement agencies cannot be overstated. At the very least, your local police department may have a crime prevention officer who will do an on-site security inspection and review your plan. Not only could this provide useful information, but it will help build a relationship with your local law enforcement. MPAC can be helpful in initiating contacts with police or other law enforcement agencies.
Have all emergency phone numbers readily available. While you should always try to use 911 first in any emergency, you should also have the phone number of your local emergency responders readily available. Have cell phones available to call emergency services from outside your facility.
Ensure that entrances to your building are monitored; no one should enter your building unscreened. There are many ways to screen, including using ushers, volunteers, staff, etc. The installation of closed-circuit TV cameras, intercoms and door release systems can assist in this process.
Minimize the number of open entrances to your facility (consistent with fire codes). A culture that promotes security consciousness allows staff and visitors to understand that minor inconveniences may translate into major security benefits.
Have a disposable camera available. This way, you can take pictures (when it is safe to do so) that may assist police if a suspicious individual or car is seen.
Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans.