Earlier this week Councilmember, At-Large, Will Jawando called on Montgomery County Police to provide increased security at Montgomery County mosques during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In a letter dated Monday, April 29, to Acting Police Chief Russell Hamill Jawando wrote:
“I write to alert you to the upcoming period of Ramadan, a Muslim holy month that starts the evening of Sunday, May 5, and extends through the evening of Tuesday, June 4, ending with the Eid prayers and celebration in the morning of Wednesday, June 5, and a need to ensure greater security during this important period of worship.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, gathering at sundown to break their fast with prayer, food and drink. We can anticipate a high level of evening activity at our Montgomery County mosques every day of Ramadan and an even higher level on the morning of Eid.
Increasing attacks on houses of worship cause us all great concern. Particularly alarming to our Montgomery County Muslim community are the recent anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic attacks in San Diego and New Zealand. After hearing directly from local Islamic leaders, I urge the Montgomery County Police Department to substantially increase security of our area mosques during this holy month.
I am confident that you share my belief that our Muslim neighbors have the right to safely worship in our community and will work closely with our local Muslim leadership to that end. If I can be of any assistance in coordinating with this effort, please do not hesitate to ask.”
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Police Department issued a statement regarding increased security at mosques in the County. The statement read, “In keeping with the department’s long-established commitment to protect and enhance public safety, we continue to work closely with our faith partners across many denominations to help provide for secure, safe and vibrant communities for worship. The Montgomery County Department of Police does not disclose security plans publicly, as such discussions may diminish – not enhance – the safety of our residents.”
The statement went on, “For years, we have been working with numerous members of the faith community to establish and maintain open, honest and strong lines of communication and to work in partnership to help maintain safety at places of worship, especially during holy days. We will continue to utilize established law enforcement techniques to assist in this endeavor and work in concert with these communities to enhance our relationships even further.”
After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last October, the County Council approved additional funding in the form of County grants that would allow mosques, temples, and churches to improve security around houses of worship.
“Our houses of worship are sacred places, and we cannot allow them to become places of fear,” said Council President Nancy Navarro in a statement released in March after the attack at a mosque in New Zealand left 49 people dead. “Last year the Council approved $200,000 in grant funding for faith-based communities targeted by hate crimes to enhance security.”
A dozen Montgomery County faith-based organizations will split a $200,000 grant to hire more security personnel for their places of worship. According to a report by WAMU, the County narrowed the list of nearly 50 applicants down to mostly Muslim groups and African American churches, which have seen a spike in violent attacks nationally and are at the highest risk of being the target of a hate crime. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington received $100,000, the largest portion of the grant money, to split with several local organizations under its umbrella.