(CHICAGO, IL, 8/11/12) — The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) said today that two air rifle shots were fired last night at the outer wall of the Muslim Education Center (MEC) mosque in Morton Grove, Ill.
The shots were heard by worshipers who were outside the mosque and were powerful enough to damage the building's brick wall. (The Muslim Community Center (MCC), of which the MEC is a suburban branch, is the oldest Muslim center in Illinois.)
A neighbor, who has a history of opposition to the mosque, allegedly fired the shots. Morton Grove police, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office are all investigating the incident.
“This is obviously an alarming situation that all parties are taking very seriously. The weapon allegedly used in this incident is powerful enough to kill, and the projectiles reportedly came within inches of the head of the security guard on duty,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.
Rehab toured the mosque site today with Muslim community leaders, the local police commander and the assistant state attorney. He said mosque leaders and community members are cooperating with the investigation and that a variety of charges are being considered.
“We have full trust in the professionals handling this investigation. They are doing everything in their power to keep communities safe and ensure that justice is served,” said Rehab.
Earlier this week, CAIR's national headquarters issued a community safety advisory for American mosques following other incidents targeting Muslim houses of worship in Missouri and Rhode Island and after the deadly shooting attack Sunday on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
In one incident, a Missouri mosque previously targeted by an arsonist burned to the ground. In California, pig legs were left at a southern California mosque and four teens face hate crime charges for harassing worshipers at a northern California mosque.
“We are gravely concerned that we are seeing the rising level of Islamophobic rhetoric in our society translate into violent behavior,” Rehab said.
“This last week of Ramadan is the holiest week of the year for Muslims, and the shots were fired at 8:30, a little after sunset, the busiest time of the day when Muslims come to the mosque to break their long day fast and pray together,” said MEC President Dr. Mohammad Aleemuddin.
“This is a school and a house of worship. It's a place for our families to pray and our children to learn about their world. And we are being shot at. Community members are terrified, especially children,” said Aleemuddin.
Yesterday, Chicago Muslims spoke out against scaremongering comments made by Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh in which he said that Islamic radicals were living in Chicago's suburbs.
A diverse group of Muslims, Jews and Christians held a press conference Friday in downtown Chicago to warn against the effects of such irresponsible remarks, especially coming as they did following incidents such as the deadly shooting spree in Wisconsin.
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad is currently on a national tour of communities targeted by hatred and bigotry.
Earlier this week he traveled with a CAIR team to Joplin, Mo., to meet with law enforcement officials and community leaders about the burned mosque. Yesterday, Awad was in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the opening of a mosque that has been targeted by a campaign of Islamophobia.
Tomorrow, Awad will be in Wisconsin to meet with Muslim community leaders and to pay a condolence visit on the Milwaukee-area Sikh temple targeted in a white supremacist's killing spree.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-870-0166; CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Aymen Abdel Halim, email@example.com, 312-212-1520; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org