‘It was hurtful’: Prayer space inside West End Islamic Center vandalized
HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - As members of the West End Islamic Center come together for the holy month of Ramadan, their place of worship became the target of vandalism.
On Saturday afternoon, a family, including their young daughter, found damage to their prayer space.
”She just kept repeating, ‘Why are they doing this to us? Why do they hate us?’” said Syed Perwez, treasurer for the board of trustees with the West End Islamic Center. “We weren’t expecting this at all.”
Inside the space was around $2,000 worth of damage, including trash, graffiti, shattered glass, and water bottles slashed and dumped on prayer rugs.
“We have water bottles here for the congregants for when they want to break our fast in the evenings and when we have our prayer services,” Perwez said. “This was a very quick, fast job.”
The West End Islamic Center believes the vandalism happened between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Perwez said a wall was also smashed in, graffiti was spray-painted on the ground, and construction materials from the second floor were thrown to the ground.
“It was hurtful. It’s hurtful that you would think that; it’s almost one of those things that you know you wouldn’t expect to it happen here,” he said. “We don’t know what sort of what their motive was, but their intent was to do damage.”
Perwez said the prayer space was opened two weeks ago for Ramadan as they continue to finish construction on their new facility.
A family and their young daughter also discovered this vandalism.
“She just kept repeating, ‘Why are they doing this to us? Why do they hate us?’” he said. “Our younger congregation coming in, they were asking because it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around this.”
This is not the first time the West End Islamic Center has been the target of vandalism. Six months ago, Perwez said they also found graffiti.
“There was graffiti,” he said. “They urinated.”
The Henrico County Police Department said they took a report for this on Nov. 26 for spray paint on the walls on the main floor and other spray-painted items in the basement.
At this time, a spokesperson said it’s unknown if these two vandalism incidents are related.
There were no cameras to capture the vandalism on camera, but Perwez said they’re working to do this.
“One of our top priorities is getting a security system,” he said.
As they look to make repairs and move forward with their holy month of Ramadan, Perwez also has a message for whoever is behind this vandalism.
“You don’t need to fear us. You don’t need to hate us,” he said. “We’re not the boogeyman or the monster in the closet or under the bed. We’re human beings just like you. Come talk to us.”
Henrico Police is asking anyone with information about this vandalism to come forward as they continue their investigation.
If you have a tip, you can call Henrico Police at (804)-501-5000 or Crime Stoppers at (804)-780-1000.
As part of their faith, the West End Islamic Center also relies on community donations to help with their costs, including the construction of their new facility.
If you would like to make a donation to the West End Islamic Center, click here.
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