PATERSON, New Jersey – Several mosques in New York’s metropolitan area have been receiving threats in the wake of Tuesday’s attack, amid calls to investigate these threats as possible hate crimes.
“People are on edge,” said James Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nj.com reported.
“There’s concern for an elevated risk of backlash.”
According to CAIR, telephone threats were received at the Masjid Omar Mosque on Getty Avenue, near suspect Sayfullo Saipov’s home, and at the Islamic Center of Passaic County, located on the city’s east side.
The Omar mosque has also received hateful messages on their Facebook page, alleging that it shielded terrorists and spreads evil teachings.
“You’re not supposed to be like that,” said Raja Salen, a worshipper who was leaving the mosque.
“Just because one person did something, the whole community shouldn’t be blamed,”
Omar Awad, president of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, said the facility received eight threatening phone calls beginning late Wednesday night and again Thursday morning.
The callers used profane language and said we’re going to “kill you … we’re going to burn your mosque down,” Awad said.
He also said that the center reported the calls to Paterson Police and Homeland Security.
“We have received threats in the past but nothing of this magnitude,” Awad said. “The national rhetoric is affecting our lives here.”
Many worshippers feared the backlash that often follows similar attacks.
“I was very surprised and feel sad that this has happened,” Harbi Khater, of Fairfield, said.
In Paterson’s large Muslim community people said they feared backlash, portraying Saipov as an outsider who was not a member of their community.
“It was one person’s act and everyone is getting blamed,” resident Saleh Matari said Wednesday.
CAIR’s New Jersey chapter released a statement Thursday, calling on state and federal authorities to investigate the threats as hate crimes.
“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to treat this, and all the other cases of threats and violence targeting American mosques, with the seriousness they deserve and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Sues, CAIR-NJ Executive Director.
“We ask that law enforcement officials be especially vigilant at a time when the risk of backlash against the Muslim community is most severe.”