Burned Quran could be a hate crime

Members of the Masjid Hefaz mosque still rattled

On the morning before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Imam Ifa Yahha made a jarring discovery outside the Masjid Hefaz mosque.

An unmarked package stuffed with roast meat, a photo of Osama bin Laden, mysterious white powder, and the burned remains of a Quran was placed in front of the door on East 198th Street off the Grand Concourse, said a mosque member.

“As far as I know, nothing of this magnitude has happened before,” said Fahaam Razack, 27, a nursing student at Lehman College who has attended the mosque since he was 14. Razack said some neighborhood residents had been known to yell at mosque members as they entered the building to pray, but that’s where it ended.

“I am upset that this happened,” said Razack, who sits on the board of the mosque. “But I can understand. Most people don’t understand Islam.”

Deputy Inspector Joseph Dowling of the 52nd Precinct said the police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, and that no arrests have been made. The fact that police have not identified a suspect leaves many in the community on edge.

One resident said he is not surprised by this most recent ugly incident.

“It’s a mad world,” said Edward Froustet, a 62-year-old Roman Catholic who lives a few doors down from the mosque. “The neighborhood in the past 20 years or more has been about gangs, groups and drugs. It will never stop.”

Members of the mosque are taking measures to add more security to the property, such as surveillance cameras. At least a hundred worshippers, mainly immigrants from Ghana and Somalia, attend services and classes at Masjid Hefaz every week including about 30 children.

Razack hopes that with more community outreach about Islam, mosque members will be left in peace.

“It’s a major misunderstanding. We need to do more in the community to fight against wrong information about Islam,” said Razack.

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