SHAFAQNA – When members of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville (ICP) in an Austin, Texas, suburb went to open their mosque for morning prayer on Monday, they found feces splattered in front of the mosque with torn pages from the Quran.
“This is very unexpected and quite honestly quite shocking,” said Faisal Naeem, an ICP board member. “We’ve always thought of Austin being an oasis.”
Pflugerville Police said they’re investigating the the incident as a hate crime. They received a call on Monday at 6:18 a.m. about criminal mischief.
The Islamic Center of Pflugerville is located inside a strip center in the 15800 block of Windermere Drive. The mosque has been in the rented space for the past three years and members said they haven’t had problems before.
“The fear factor is definitely there. It’s an open space and the fear is somebody who is armed takes the next step and walks in, that’s a problem. We’ll work with law enforcement and take whatever legal measures that we’re allowed to take to protect ourselves,” said Naeem.
He said there’s no way of telling if this is in connection to what happened in Paris, but believes it could be.
“A few individuals who did what they did, they don’t represent the 1.6 billion Muslims, they don’t represent me for sure and the Austin Muslim community,” said Naeem in regards to the terrorists in Friday’s attack. “Similarly, [the vandal] doesn’t represent the rest of Austin, Pflugerville, or all Americans.”
“He or she, who ever did this, or they, doesn’t represent anybody but themselves,” said Naeem in regards to the person who defaced the mosque. “If I find the guy or girl who did this I would welcome them with open arms, to have a conversation with them. If this person wants to come and talk to us about why he did it and how we are not connected to what is happening in Paris or the Middle East.”
“Last thing we want is anybody: my kids, anybody’s kids, Muslims, non-Muslim, doesn’t matter, getting hurt,” said Naeem.
Naeem said they’ve received positive emails from people in the community. A Pflugerville woman and her son even stopped by to help clean up. Since the mess was already gone, they instead gave a donation.
“It’s disgusting, it’s gross, it doesn’t matter what you believe, what I believe, what he believes or anybody believes, all faith is important,” said Laura Swanson who lives in Pflugerville.
Her 7 year-old-son, Jack, emptied his piggy bank and gave Naeem and the Islamic Center a $20 donation as an act of kindness. Swanson said she wanted to use this as a teaching moment for her son.
“We were talking in the car how someone smeared poop on their church and that was a really, really awful thing to do and we had a good conversation what churches are for and how everybody’s churches are important,” said Swanson. “I think it’s really good to get kids involved and to let them know what the important stuff really is.”
“It’s 20 bucks, but coming from Jack collecting his pennies it’s worth 20 million bucks to me and to our community,” said Naeem who has a son around Jack’s age. “This gives me hope because this means it’s not one versus the other.”
Over the weekend, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said they had extra patrols monitoring religious institutions for any possible threats against the Muslim religion.