Hawzah News Agency (Texas, US) – A north Austin mosque is once again repairing costly damage caused by vandalism.
Early Wednesday morning Imam Islam Mossaad said someone slashed the tires on two vans parked outside the North Austin Muslim Community Center. The mosque uses one of those vans for funerals, Mossaad said.
This is now the third destructive act of vandalism targeting the mosque in recent weeks, and Mossaad said he now believes the same person is behind it all.
"Shock of course and disbelief," said Adnan Suleiman with the North Austin Muslim Community Center. "Especially in Austin because we know Austin is not a city for... or has the environment for such actions."
"We're concerned because of the repeated nature and the intentionality of the action," he said. "We are thinking this is very likely a hate crime rather than just a random vandalism."
On September 2 KXAN reported that someone got onto the grounds and used rocks to break out six large glass panes around one of the buildings. A few days before that, more car tires were slashed at the facility.
After those two initial incidents, the mosque created an online fundraiser to help pay for repairs. In a week's time, the mosque collected more than $9,000 in donations. The money covered the cost to repair the broken glass, but Mossaad said more fundraising is needed to make the costly upgrades to the security system.
"This is a place that is generally open, which we like, and the City of Austin is an open place," Mossaad said. "We like that spirit, so we will continue that spirit, but take the necessary precautions, as well."
Even though some of his members have expressed their fear about the frequency of the vandalism, the Imam said they will not allow that worry to define them.
"We are undeterred, he said. "We continue to come to the mosque to pray. Our children come to learn. We have services to the community -- such as a free clinic, a food pantry, other services, public lectures -- so we're going to continue all those activities and may be more emboldened and grow them."
He added, "We will not cower to hatred, but rather we will rise with love."
Friday night, the North Austin Muslim Community Center held a town hall with Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
The event was scheduled two months in advance, designed to foster better communication between the Muslim community and city leaders.
The mayor took some time at the event to answer our questions about the vandalism.
"The fact that there's someone out here in our community that would be engaging in conduct that, to me, appears to be directed at trying to scare people is wrong," he said.
He told finding out who is responsible is his top priority. "We're doing everything we can as a city to ensure that people here and this place are safe and protected."