Muslims to mosque attackers: Come on in

BY STEPHEN MAGAGNINI

Muslims to mosque attackers: Come on in
Yousef Hussin the Eman (Prayer leader) at Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento reacts to recent hate crimes. Renee C. Byer The Sacramento Bee

The day after a burnt Quran laced with bacon was handcuffed to a chain link fence outside Sacramento’s largest mosque, Islamic leaders invited the attackers to come and visit.

Seemingly unruffled by the alleged hate crime, more than 7,000 Muslims from 50 nations came out in their Sunday best to celebrate Eid, marking the end of 30 days of fasting for Ramadan. An estimated 50,000 Muslims in the Sacramento region were celebrating the 1,400-year-old holiday started by the Prophet Muhammad.

The desecrated Quran and other mosque attacks reflect “ignorance,” said Sajid Hussain, president of Masjid Annur Islamic Center.

“They don’t know about Islam,” he said of the perpetrators. “If they have any questions, we are open. They are invited here any time.

“We are not going to be angry or lose our temper.”

The incident at the Sacramento mosque came a day after numerous pages ripped from a Quran were thrown from a moving vehicle during Ramadan Taraweeh prayers at the Islamic Center of Davis. “We took it as a hate incident,” said Davis police Lt. Thomas Waltz. “No suspects have yet been identified.”

The Davis center had been vandalized in January, when Lauren Kirk-Coehlo broke windows, sliced up bicycle seats and wrapped bacon on the door handles. Kirk-Coehlo, who claimed she was protesting the mistreatment of women in Islam, received five years’ probation after pleading guilty to a felony hate crime.

Hussain told the thousands of congregants gathered for Eid that the recent incidents placed “more responsibility on our community to disseminate what is Islam and what is in the Quran.”

Imam Yousef Hussin said the Bible and the Quran share a lot of common beliefs, including the worship of a single god, the power of prayer and charity.

The desecrated blue Quran was chained to a fence belonging to the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department located next to the mosque. “It’s a big insult and distracting that somebody would sink to that level, but nobody’s afraid, we’re taking it in stride,” Hussin said.

He shared a lesson from the Quran about how many of the prophet’s companions were brutally tortured and murdered for their beliefs, “and decades later the people who did this embraced Islam. There is a verse in Quran that says, `resist evil with goodness and perhaps the person who is your greatest enemy will be one of your closest allies.’ 

Mosque attorney Tawfiq Morrar noted that while “a lot of people try to correlate the terror they see overseas with Muslims, more than 90 percent of the victims of these terrorists are Muslims themselves.”

Eid is a time of happiness and forgiveness, Morrar said, “but the uptick in hate crimes in this political climate cannot be ignored – we have to stay vigilant. We’re not going to hide who we are.”

Some Davis mosque leaders have preached forgiveness for such incidents.

Hamza El Nakhal of the Davis Islamic Center said he and several other members picked up more than a hundred pages, many of them cut up in pieces. El Nakhal also welcomed any people with anti-Muslim sentiments into the mosque, as he did with Kirk-Coehlo. “We’d love to see these people who have any questions please come in, I would be happy to accommodate them.”

But Morrar said that letting Kirk-Coehlo get probation instead of jail time “sends a message you can do this and you will get off – this will not serve as a deterrent.”

Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), praised law enforcement for its swift response. On Friday, CAIR launched a new app that gives users the ability to immediately report bias incidents they experience in response to “an unprecedented spike in hate crimes targeting Muslims … since the Nov. 8 election.” Elkarra said.

Sacramento Sheriff’s Detectives are asking anyone with information about the Masjid Annur incident to contact the department at 916-874-5115 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at (916) 443-5357. Tip information may also be left anonymously at sacsheriff.com or by calling 916-874-8477.

First posted on http://amp.sacbee.com

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