Fairfax County police don’t believe around the mosque in Falls Church early Saturday morning were hate crimes.
Capt. Gun Lee, commander of the Mason District police station, said several vehicles between Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads were vandalized between Friday night and Saturday morning. Lee said the incidents happened in a seven-mile radius.
“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to say the mosque was targeted,” Lee said.
Johari Abdul-Malik, an Imam at the mosque, said several vehicles, including his own, had windows broken out. The damage was first noticed after sunrise, when several members of the mosque were leaving a prayer service.
Abdul-Malik said the senior Imam at the mosque, who lives across the street, was out around 2:30 a.m. and didn’t see any damage.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., said his organization is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the individuals involved in the melee.
Dozens of people from an assortment of religious and ethnic backgrounds gathered in front of the mosque in a show of solidarity on Saturday night. Abdul-Malik told the group to continue working together to forge relationships in the community.
“Although there are international concerns, we believe this incident isn’t a backlash from that,” Abdul-Malik said. “Some people in this community fear this could cause some animosity.”
Awad said he hopes the act of vandalism wasn’t a hate crime. He said the crimes would not be tolerated in the community.
“We cannot pretend there is not tension in the Middle East,” Awad said. “We do not need that tension to come here.”
According to the Boston Globe, Al-Qaida’s most active branch in the Middle East called for more attacks on U.S. embassies on Saturday. Chris Stevens, the first U.S. ambassador to die in an attack since 1979, was killed in Libya on Sept. 11 with three other Americans.
Kathleen Kline Moore, senior pastor at in Falls Church, said the community is composed of many ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. The community shares many things, she said, one of which is a journey for peace and unity.
“We are indeed a community that seeks to find unity,” she said. “We are a peaceful community.”
Lee urged the community to come forth with information about the crimes. The commander told the crowd they are a team and must work together to get to the bottom of the widespread report of vandalized cars.
“If you see anything or know something, contact me directly,” Lee said. “I do not want fear in our community. We’re going to take action and we’re going to investigate.”
Lee Can be reached at 703-256-8035 ext. 2248.