The Islamic Center of Western Massachusetts has recently been the target of three attacks.
On March 21, the windows and windshield of a van parked at the center were smashed with a large stone while Islamic Society members were in the midst of their Friday prayer, Islamic Society President Dr. M. Saleem Bajwa said Tuesday. The front door of the center's new hall was shattered with another large stone on March 26. On March 28, two large windows of the main building were smashed with stones. These windows are high off the ground and would require some force to break.
In addition to the vandalism, the Islamic Center received threatening telephone calls.
Local police and the FBI have been called in to investigate.
West Springfield Police Sgt. Mark Sypek said yesterday that he wouldn't characterize the vandalism as hate crimes. "I haven't seen any graffiti that would indicate that," he said. . .
Imam Wissam Abdul Baki, spiritual leader of the center, yesterday said he believes the perpetrators are ignorant of Islam's peaceful nature. . .
The Islamic Center has made an effort to reach out to the community. It is an active member of the Interfaith Council and has run food drives, health screenings and has instituted programs specifically for teens, Baki said. On April 24, the society is planning a seminar for the public that focuses on Islam's connection to peace, justice and non-violence.
Islamic Society members said they have full confidence in the law enforcement officials. "We hope they can catch these guys," Bajwa said.
In response to the recent events, the Islamic Society and members of the Interfaith Council of Greater Springfield are planning a vigil at 5:30 p.m. today at the Islamic Center at 377 Amostown Road.