Michigan mosque vandalized following evening prayers
- Emma Stein Detroit Free Press (TNS)
DETROIT — The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s mosque in Rochester Hills was vandalized Friday night as children played inside following evening prayers.
No one was hurt in the incident, but the community is shaken, a mosque official said Saturday.
The mosque was nearly empty at the time of the incident, but some members and their children stayed behind to play after evening prayers ended. The mosque has security cameras that captured the incident and showed the perpetrator smashing the front door, shattering the glass, with an unknown tool.
Members didn’t discover the vandalism until they arrived for morning prayer at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, said Muhammad Ahmad, director of outreach at Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Michigan. Ahmadiyya is a revivalist movement within Islam founded in 1889.
“It’s scary because women are there, kids are there,” Ahmad said. “We generally feel very safe in this neighborhood, but this has shaken up everybody up, especially the kids.”
Ahmad has three children and said they see hate crimes against Muslims on the news, and this incident has made them scared to go to the mosque.
He said it’s especially difficult because people have only just started coming back in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they have to be extra vigilant.
They don’t know yet if it’s an isolated incident or part of something larger, but they’re working with the Rochester Hills Police Department.
The Rochester Hills police did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
The prevalence of hate crimes against their community has been relatively low in the neighborhood, according to Mansoor Qureshi, vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Michigan.
In the 1980s, an Ahmadiyya mosque in the Detroit area was burnt down and a member was murdered, which spurred the move to Rochester Hills in 2008, Qureshi said. Since then, there have been a few instances of verbal abuse in their facility, but the community generally has felt safe, he said.
After this incident, they’re having internal discussions about increasing their security.
“We want to have a little bit more discussion with our community, in general, to be careful,” Qureshi said. “Just kind of based on the environment and situation with this incident, this is the first time that something like this has occurred to this facility.”
Over the years, other mosques have been vandalized in Michigan.
Last month, a mosque in the Flint area, Grand Blanc Islamic Center, was vandalized, according to a local advocacy group and NBC 25 News.
Last year, a mosque in Warren was vandalized. The Free Press reported at the time: “The Al Ihsaan Islamic Center, also known as Ideal Islamic Center, was opened a few months ago by immigrants from Bangladesh in what was previously a Lutheran church. On Friday afternoon, someone smashed several windows of the mosque with a hammer, according to the imam, Muhammad Islam.”
The same mosque faced harassment this summer during prayers, a Muslim leader told WDIV-TV.
As the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community mosque continues to work with law enforcement to stay safe, Qureshi said he hopes nothing more sinister is at play and that people can discuss their differences rather than resorting to violence.
“We are welcoming people,” Qureshi said. “I know people are uncomfortable, but it is better to just get to know people so that you know even these isolated things don’t happen.”
(Detroit Free Press staff writer Niraj Warikoo contributed to this report.)