Islamic Society of Delaware vandalized, 3 charged
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
Three juveniles were arrested and charged for criminal mischief last night after signs and a fence were destroyed outside the Islamic Society of Delaware on Salem Church Road in Newark, according to Jeffrey A. Reising, supervisory special agent with the FBI.
The vigil––held to unify the community against intolerance––was a response to vandalism of the mosque that occurred early Friday morning, hours before the weekly service. Debris from the broken fence and sign was used to make a cross.
Some members of the Muslim community believe the act to be a hate crime, said international relations junior Madinah Wilson, president of the Muslim Students Association.
“It reminds me of crosses burning in the front yard and lynching,” Wilson said.
ISD has responded with a message promoting peace toward this isolated incident including a peaceful, anti-violence petition for ISD members to sign on Friday’s afternoon service, Wilson said. No such act of vandalism has occurred before directed toward the center, S. Ismat Shah, advisor to the MSA and physics and astronomy professor, said.
“While this incident is of major concern to all of us, the overwhelming support we have received from our neighbors, interfaith groups and other social and religious organizations are a source of inspiration,” stated ISD President Mahamed Allimulla in a press released issued on the center’s website.
Allimulla said Friday’s incident “warrants a largely collaborative campaign to fight the growing islamophobia in our society.” The ISD could not be reached for comment.
The center also includes a PreK-3 to eighth grade school, the Islamic Academy of Delaware. Wilson said she thinks some of the younger students may have been emotionally startled due to the proximity and possible intention of the event.
“The older kids probably understand what it was and freaked out,” Wilson said.
Shah said the attack is a reminder there are groups who hold foul intentions, but the ISD community will not change its course of action.
“We are peaceful people and we will continue to be,” Shah said. “We all condemn what happened but in a very peaceful way.”
Despite the possible intentions of the act, Shah said he knows that although there are people with evil intentions, it is only a small minority. Shah also said many community members and leaders have reached out in support.
“I am very thankful for the support from the community,” Shah said. “From the religious community, Christians, the Jewish, we have received many messages of support. For that, I am very thankful.”
Wilson echoed Shah’s sentiments as she mentioned the response of the Christian community toward the Muslim community, such as an email from the pastor of the campus Presbyterian ministry to the MSA, she said. Despite acts committed by members of a certain faith, she said these actions do not represent the entire faith’s beliefs. Wilson related this value to how others react to the Muslim community in times of terrorists attack.
“It kind of reminds me, like how there are terrorists who say they are Muslim and the Muslim community’s reaction to those acts—it’s the same kind of reaction from the Christian community,” Wilson said. “It was only a sole actor.”
While there has been no release as to who committed the act or their intentions, there have been speculations made by the ISD, Wilson said. She said some members believe the incident may have been caused by frustration directed toward the heavy traffic during weekly Friday services at the church.
Local, state and federal authorities are currently investigating the situation, Allimulla said, with ISD amplifying security efforts for the time being.
“Rest assured, we are very confident to say that our campus is safe and secure,” Allimulla stated in a press release issued on ISD’s website. “We have already installed additional lights and working on adding additional security cameras at the driveway of our entrance.”
Despite other Muslim community members speculation, Shah said he finds little reason to believe it is a hate crime. The ISD has been in the Newark community for a long time, and there does not seem to be anything that has changed community perceptions of the organization, Shah said.
“Acts like this always bring more people to research and learn about [the Muslim religion] so it will be a learning opportunity,” Wilson said. “The sermon that Friday afternoon was saying how we need to make sure we are being good examples of Muslims so that [the public] knows whatever they see in the media isn’t our religion.”
Cady Zuvich contributed to the reporting of this article.