30 Days of Ramadan, Day 26: Stay Safe

Now that we’re nearing the end of Ramadan many of us have increased our efforts to attain some form of spiritual balance.

We started off with the fasting, praying, and reading Quran – and added nightly Taraweeh prayers and maybe a program or a lecture here or there.

We found more charities to give to and worked on our individual internal struggles.

As Ramadan has progressed, hopefully, so have we. That’s been the intention and conscious effort all along anyway.

Yet by the time we hit the last quarter it doesn’t feel like enough! I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because even the masjids open up and add an extra prayer session in the dead of night – Qiyam, another prayer session as Taraweeh and very unique to this holy month.

I have always loved going to Qiyam prayers, there’s a particular atmosphere of comfort and awe in the silence of the night.

Unfortunately, recent events have changed the holy atmosphere around these extra worship opportunities.

After the attempted massacre in London and now with the news of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen’s death, the Muslim community is scared, and rightly so.

Hate crimes have escalated during the month of Ramadan, to the point that many Muslim families are afraid to go to the masjid. Women who wear hijab are encouraged by family members to take the headscarf off for security. Religious freedom, though protected by the Constitution, seems less and less of a given right to all.

Is this what the first Pilgrims felt like when they fled Europe?

As a result of these hate crimes and terror attacks I encourage the Muslim community to become hypervigilant of their surroundings, a reason for which I’m going to share with you.

Two days ago I went home after Taraweeh to freshen up and get some tea in my system before Qiyam. I was running a little late so instead of getting to the masjid by 2:00 a.m. I pulled up around 2:30 a.m. For security purposes, only one gate was open to enter and exit the masjid so I headed in that direction.

Immediately I noticed things out of the ordinary.

There were four cars parked right across from the open gate, with at least two to three people in each car. There were two cars right in front of the masjid, one of which was half blocking the open gate, forcing anyone trying to park to go around the two cars while passing the other four cars. So that’s what I did. I noticed there were handful of people going back and forth between the cars, talking to one another before switching cars. The people were dressed as if they were about to go to a party or night club, so that’s what I assumed at first. However, it also seemed as if two people were watching the masjid from their cars. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was because the masjid was a sight to see, or that they had never seen it open so late.

But part of me was starting to feel uneasy because this was all definitely out of the norm.

Instead of parking in the front as I had originally intended, I parked on the opposite side of the gate and cut my lights so I could see the cars. I noticed other cars of Muslims having to go between the cars to enter the gate as I had.

I typed 911 on my phone, ready to call if necessary and I started to pray quietly to myself while watching them.

Within a few minutes of my parking the parked cars started moving. They sped off, but not before two of those cars drove in an aggressive circle in front of the masjid.

They were gone but I was unnerved.

I was about to head in but I saw how many cars were within the gates, how many families had come out to pray, and I couldn’t just leave the situation as it was – whatever it was.

I went ahead and dialed for the police and requested extra surveillance around the masjid, explaining what all I had seen and the fact that I felt scared, and that the masjid and the people inside were vulnerable.

I am very thankful to be able to say that the police was cooperative and within four minutes of my call two sheriff’s cars arrived from the Houston Police Department. I explained everything I saw and felt, and I also explained how the masjid was now open 24 hours during the final days of Ramadan and how many people are constantly in and out.

Alhamdulillah, again, HPD was very helpful. They parked outside and surveyed the area, promising to make more frequent rounds, especially in the next 10 days.

I was able to breathe more easily now so I went in and alerted the masjid office of everything, letting them know that HPD was there to protect us and not interrogate us.

Alhamdulillah nothing happened then, nor in the following days and Insha’Allah it’ll stay that way. Those six cars could have just chosen a very strange place to conduct whatever business or meet-up they had, but I knew that I would not have been able to live with myself if something happened and I hadn’t done my utmost to protect whatever fraction of the Muslim community that I could.

After that we have had more security and patrols during the nightly prayers.

I do not want to instill fear in anyone, but we need to accept the fact that in today’s climate we are being persecuted and we are in danger. We need to stay hypervigilant and report suspicious activity if we see it.

We are Americans, we are Muslim – we have the right to practice our religion and we have the right to our safety and security.

The 30 Days of Ramadan blog is written by Sobia Siddiqui, CAIR-Houston’s Operations Coordinator.

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