CAIRO - Amid fears of repeated attacks on their mosques over the past two weeks, US Muslims are getting ready to celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Sunday as Muslim groups try to increase mosques security without spurring panic among worshippers.
"We ask our member organizations and the Muslim community in general to exercise extreme caution and immediately report any incidents of harassment, abuse or violence to the appropriate authorities," Dr. Zaher Sahloul, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said in a statement cited by Huffington Post on Friday, August 17.
Sahloul comments came as CIOGC sent a memo to its 63 mosques and organizations, advising them to create safety committees as well as emergency and evacuation plans to be distributed to members.
All About `Eid Al-Fitr
When is Your `Eid?
The memo also asked police for patrols during Ramadan and peak prayer times.
Similar calls were urged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington D.C. which issued a safety advisory on August 6.
The advisory urged Muslims to install surveillance equipment, request extra police patrols, and report suspicious vehicles driving near mosques ahead of `Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
The warnings followed attacks on seven US mosques in the last two weeks, including three attacks last weekend.
According to reports, vandals shot paintballs at the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City on Aug. 12, and in Lombard, Ill., someone threw a bottle filled with acid at an Islamic school while 500 people prayed inside.
A day earlier, a neighbor fired an air rifle at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill., while on August 7 two women were videotaped throwing pig legs on a proposed mosque site in Ontario, California.
On August 6, the Islamic Society of Joplin (Missouri) mosque burned to the ground in a suspected arson attack, while a vandal smashed a sign at the Masjid al-Islam in North Smithfield, R.I.
Four teens in Hayward, Calif., were arrested on August 5 for throwing lemons at a local mosque, and allegedly shot a BB gun at the mosque in earlier incidents.
All of that comes in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin which left six people and the gunman dead.
Though urged for Muslims safety, the new security measures were criticized by a leading Islamic organization as scaring the Muslim community.
"By sending a lot of advisories, you can also scare the community, and that is something that we don't want to do," Naeem Baig, Vice President of the Islamic Circle of North America, told Huffington Post.
"Our organization is advising Muslims to practice your faith, be proud of your faith."
Baig noted that ICNA does not plan to send-out special warnings, though acknowledging the importance of the role played by CAIR.
Because CAIR is a civil rights group, Baig said their safety advisory was "appropriate."
"If all Muslim groups started doing the same thing, it could create chaos," Baig said.
Despite criticism, the new security measures were urged to protect Muslim worshippers during days of `Eid Al-Fitr.
"I think people do feel concern about their safety going to and from or being at mosques and in general feeling like prey," said Kelly Kaufmann, who attends the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill., which was attacked.
`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.
During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net