The Muslim month-long holiday Ramadan is traditionally a time for reflection and celebration—and, in 2019, a time to take measures against active shooters.
That's the new reality in the U.S. for the American Muslim community, which has seen a spike in hate speech, threats, and attacks over the last three years.
To deal with the increase in threats and attacks, Muslims across the U.S. are turning to active shooter training to deal with the danger.
Reporting this week from The Washington Post and HuffPost details the situation these houses of worship find themselves in as they get ready for Islam's biggest holiday.
Muslims around the world were stricken in March when a white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers, killing 51 worshippers. Later that month, a mosque in California was set on fire. A note left at the scene referenced the New Zealand massacre.
The rash of violence has many Muslims concerned as mosques prepare for their busiest time of year ― the month of Ramadan, which began Monday, when congregations gather to break fasts and attend late-night prayers. Mosque leaders across the country have sought professional help to secure their centers in preparation for the worst.
"With #Ramadan in full swing, no one is taking any chances," said HuffPost reporter Rowaida Abdelaziz, who wrote the news site's coverage.
Mosques across American are spending thousands of dollars in security. Some mosques I spoke to hosted active shooter trainings. Others hired armed guards because local police isn't enough. With #Ramadan in full swing, no one is taking any chances. https://t.co/ZHzSyMdUj4— Rowaida Abdelaziz (@Rowaida_Abdel) May 7, 2019
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In Austin, at the North Austin Muslim Community Center mosque, imam Islam Mossad told HuffPost he was taking preventative measures in response to four separate incidents targeting the building, including a man last week attempting to burn it down with gasoline.
"We want to do everything we can after putting our trust in Allah that we take the means necessary for people's safety as well," said Mossad.
Saif Rahman, a staff member at the Dar Al-Hijra mosque in Virginia, told The Washington Post that he hoped active shooter drills are not the new reality.
"Houses of worship should not be military barracks," Rahman said. "I just hope instead of us thinking along those lines, we think about how we can heal wounds and fight ignorance together."
"These preventative measures aren't necessarily solving the root cause, which is ignorance," he added. "Ignorance breeds hate."
Lanham, Maryland, is the home of the Diyanet Center of America. Director of security Bilal Qudah said that members of the congregation are concerned for their safety.
"A lot of people, after New Zealand, are apprehensive about coming to pray," Qudah told the Post. "They want to see someone in uniform walking around."
With Ramadan comes greater fears, Qudah said, because of the importance of the holiday and the amount of people in the mosque on a nightly basis.
"People ask me about coming for Ramadan," he said. "I reassure them that by the grace of God, everything will be okay."