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Safety tips are a sad reality for US Muslims

US Muslims warned to take precautions amid growing incidence of hate crimes

Gulf News

Dubai: The growing incidence of hate crime against Muslims in America has led Cair, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to issue a safety guide to mosques and places where Muslims gather.

Cair is warning that mosques are vulnerable as they are located in isolated areas or are left unattended for long periods. And it warns that mosques should avoid having vegetation or shrubs close to the buildings where intruders might hide — and the facilities need to be well-lit and have a burglar alarm.

“Take the following safety measures,” Cair warns. “Build good relationships with neighbours of the mosque. Invite them to visit your centre. Try to have people attend the mosque as much as possible. Activity deters perpetrators.”

Cair is also suggesting that Muslims develop a relationship with the community relations officer of the local police departments and encourage them to tour mosques and make suggestions on improving mosque security.

And the group says Muslim communities should request additional police patrols in and near mosques or Islamic cultural centres, and special attention should be paid to times of darkness and during prayers.

“Consider creating a security committee at your mosque,” Cair warns. “Post mosque members at entrances and parking areas during prayer times.”

All mosques should have perimeter lighting to deter interlopers and members should document descriptions of suspicious people or vehicles.

“Make duplicates of all important papers, computer disks and records,” Cair warns. “Remove potential fire hazards, such as trash and debris.”

The group also advises installing security cameras near places of worship.

Sadly, Cair also gives detailed advice to Muslims in dealing with bomb threats called into mosques and community centres.

“Keep the caller on the line as long as possible,” is suggested. “Ask that the message be repeated. Record or write down everything that is said. Ask for the location of the bomb. Inform the caller that the detonation of a bomb could hurt many innocent people.”

The group also advises that those taking calls should “pay attention to background noise such as music, which may give a clue as to the caller’s location. Listen closely to the caller’s voice. Make note of accents, voice quality (calm, excited) or speech impediments.

And it also warns anyone at a mosque or place where Muslims gather to be very careful while handling mail and not to open suspicious packages.