WASHINGTON – Muslim Advocates, a national legal, advocacy and educational organization for American Muslims, issued an arson awareness notice last night to mosques nationwide. The alert comes during this year’s Arson Awareness Week (May 7-13) with is sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and in advance of Ramadan, which begins in the last week of May. The notice urges mosques to implement best practices for preventing arson and to report acts of vandalism.
A recent wave of mosque burnings and vandalism has caused a heightened awareness of the need for arson prevention and reporting. In just 2017, five different mosque fires—in Austin, TX, Victoria, TX, Bellevue, WA, Tampa, FL, and Pittsfield Township, MI— have either been ruled as or are under investigation as arson.
For many Muslims around the world, the Islamic month of Ramadan is a time for fasting and prayer. Mosques around the country will open their doors to thousands of worshipers in their communities, and will host events, activities and prayers throughout the month. However, in recent years, Ramadan has also been a time for heightened vigilance by congregants because of the increase in hate violence targeting Muslims and houses of worship.
“American Muslims should never be afraid to worship or attend their mosque.” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry for Muslim Advocates. “But we know we have to look out for the safety and security of our community, now more than ever. Mosques and congregants can take concrete steps to ensure that safety and we hope our resource guide can assist them.”
The organization’s arson awareness notice was distributed electronically to mosques, Muslim charities, and activists nationwide and is available here. It includes guidance and resources from FEMA on best practices to prevent arson like installing security cameras and enhanced lighting or creating barriers between the street and the mosque.
The notice also includes tips for preventative community engagement like building relationships with local fire and police departments, neighbors and other faith communities.
Muslim Advocates also strongly encourages mosques and charities to report acts of vandalism on their secure online form—affiliated with the Communities Against Hate initiative—and to police.
“In the event of a possible arson, mosques should immediately report to their local police department and to Muslim Advocates,” said Ahussain. “A mosque burning leaves major scars on entire communities. It’s often hard for arson victims to stand up and be a witness but the greatest deterrent to vandals is knowing that their actions will not break our spirit.”
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.