Hate crimes against the Muslim community are on a rise especially after the election of Donald Trump. One of the main targets for this hate have been mosques. Since Trump entered the White House, mosques have been vandalized, set on fire, and worshipers shot to death. On top of that, we have far-right islamophobes in the White House, who are closely linked to conspiracy websites and could introduce legislation to target mosques. There have already been attempts via Muslim bans disguised as ‘security measures’.
It is more important than ever for us to make sure that we as Muslims are taking proper precautions to safeguard our religious institutions. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) famously said, “Tie up your camel and trust in Allah” (Tirmidhi). Following is a list of 10 things we can do to protect our places of worship.
1. Security Cameras
Mosques must install cameras so that any attack or vandalizing can be recorded and presented to prosecute the perpetrator through evidence. It also helps track down culprit(s) by sharing the video with a wider audience.
2. Clear Surrounding
Bright lights should be installed so that a clear facial image can appear of the culprit. Even if the perpetrator has covered his face, the cameras may pick up his clothes and physical description. The exterior lights should be placed on a light sensor and it should be checked periodically to assure functionality. Also, all greenery should be placed at low levels so that culprits cannot hide behind them right before their attacks. This is especially true for Isha prayers. Everything should be visible to worshipers exiting the mosque.
3. Phone Tree
A phone tree, a system for contacting a large number of people quickly in which each person called then telephones a number of other designated people, should be created within the community to distribute important information or send out an alert. Some mosques prefer creating some sort of Google group or Whatsapp group for their community.
4. Safeguard Documents
Critical legal, building, and financial documents should be kept in a safe environment and plenty of copies should be made so that they can be replaced immediately in case of a fire or theft.
5. Compliance Checks
Mosques should do legal compliance checks for nonprofit rules as well as financial compliance. In case the government tries to hammer down on mosques in trying to pick at every little issue to be used as an excuse for non-compliance, the mosques should be prepared so that they can quickly prove that they are functioning legally under the law.
6. Media Contact
There must be someone that is solely responsible for media coordination. He/She would keep track of key media outlets locally as well as nationally and know how to contact them. This person must also try to build relationships with media reporters especially the local ones.
7. Relationship w/ Law Enforcement & Elected Officials
Mosque leadership should be in contact with local law enforcement and elected officials. They can be of great help in times of need. They should also be invited to visit the community and engage with them. This way, they can better understand what the Muslim community wants. Mosques can also request law enforcement to give training on active shooter response and how to protect yourself.
8. Faith and Non-Faith Based Coalition Building
It is now more important than ever to build coalitions with local faith and non-faith based organizations. Building relationships with such organizations can help strengthen bonds and help resist and fight against bigotry within the society. When would-be-aggressors see large support within a society for the vulnerable, they are less likely to victimize them.
9. Open Mosque Day
Mosques should do more open houses to invite neighbors, school teachers, local business owners, local law enforcement, elected officials, media, etc. to learn about Islam and Muslims. The more your neighbors are aware of who you are, the more they will do to stand up for you. You can download this open mosque e-guide, which takes you step by step on how to do a successful open house.
10. Create a Crisis Management Team
Mosques should have a crisis management team that would be responsible for making all of the above points a reality. Some of their duties would include: have emergency contact lists for legal and law enforcement assistance, response procedures for terrorist attacks against Muslims and non-Muslims, coordinate community training on safety, create, train, and post evacuation plan in case of emergency, etc.
Printable Brief Summary of the 10 Tips