Worried that their mosques are being targeted by thieves, some Muslim leaders in Queens called attention Tuesday to a number of burglaries in the borough.
“It’s a sacred place and they just totally violated it,” said Imam Charles Aziz Bilal.
Bilal says that after cutting through a fence and breaking the lock on the back door, two thieves were able to get into his mosque on Sutphin Boulevard and steal the money in all the collection boxes.
The incident happened a week and a half ago, and Imam Bilal is asking for the public’s help in finding the suspects.
“They were African Americans, brothers, one dark skinned with a light beard. And one light skinned with a light beard, kinda tall,” said Bilal. “The one with light skin and a light beard had a backpack on. I guess that’s where he carried his equipment or tools to burglarize or whatever. The other guy was wearing a leather jacket with graffiti on the back.”
A few miles away, on 161st Street, Imam Mohamed Azeem Khan is also feeling violated. The imam says $5,000 was taken from his mosque when it was burglarized on February 1st.
“They took the safe away,” said Khan. “It was covered here, and in the back they broke my drawer where I had the petty cash.
After speaking to other imams, the men say they were told a number of mosques in the area had been hit as well.
“Not only eight mosques here in the borough of Queens, but also two churches,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood.
The men say most of the robberies were not reported. According to these imams, the reason the robberies were not reported is that some Muslim leaders don’t trust the NYPD. Even so, Abdur-Rashid is encouraging the head of mosques that have been hit to contact the police.
“There are protocols that have been established for contact between Muslim religious officials and the NYPD, and, so yes, we are encouraging Muslim officials to take advantage of those protocols and begin to contact the police when you have a crime of this nature,” he said.
The NYPD is also encouraging the imams to contact them about crimes at their mosques. In the meantime, the NYPD says it is currently investigating the reported burglaries.