CALCIUM — Even after the back door to their mosque was broken into, donations were stolen and holy books were thrown to the ground, members of the Islamic Center of Northern New York are still spreading peace — the basic tenet of Islam — while saying the U.S. is the last hope for humanity.
Things have been quiet at the Islamic center on County Route 342 in the town of Leray. Services are limited and daily prayers have become less frequent due to the pandemic. Their main weekly service every Friday, Jumaa Prayers — comparable to Sunday services — have only recently started again with limited capacity. Leaders at the mosque believe these are factors for why the center was reportedly broken into last week.
On Friday, June 5, members of the mosque met for their weekly Jumaa Prayers at around 1:45 p.m.
They came back for another service a week later and found the back door broken.
According to members there, after the back door was broken into, someone walked through the kitchen and then through a food preparation area before noticing cameras. It appears the intruder then found the DVR recording device and monitor connected to the cameras and grabbed it. Then the person, according to the members, stole the donation tray, which had money in it. Lastly, the person went into one of the offices and took several holy books off a shelf and threw them to the ground. Whether the person was looking for something, they don’t know.
State police are still investigating, which includes their bias unit. Investigators took the cameras inside the mosque to be examined for fingerprints. A civil rights and advocacy group, Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York, called for a probe into a possible motive. And as far as the members? They think a bias motive is possible.
“It’s possible because some religious items were vandalized,” said Dr. Mulazim Kahn, a retired surgeon now living in Carthage. “The first thing we were thinking was it hadn’t happened in so long. Why now? Who would do that?”
Indeed, around 11 years ago the mosque’s donation tray was stolen. But this time is different as there hadn’t been a break-in.
Despite it all, around 20 members of the church showed up Friday for weekly prayers, nearly half of which were soldiers from Fort Drum. That includes Abai Kerbenbev, a Russian-Asian soldier who was coming from the field and was still in his physical training uniform when he got to the mosque.
“We have people from all over the world,” Mr. Kerbenbev said. “Also, a couple guys who were born in the United States converted to Islam a few weeks ago.”
Leading the service on Friday was Dr. Khalid Sindhu, the interim Imam — comparable to a priest — who spoke to members about standing firm on justice. He also spoke about people treating others the best they can, and that oppression is the worst sin a person can commit.
After the service and prayers, some members left while others went to the conference hall — which before COVID-19 had been the gathering place for churches around the area — to have lunch.
Dr. Moid Kahn, a member, family physician in Watertown and former president of the center, is proud of the relationship the mosque has built with surrounding churches since it opened in 1982. And for the growing number of soldiers who attend the mosque.
“I think people are not aware that Muslims in this area aren’t all doctors and dentists and teachers and business people,” Dr. Kahn said. “Many are actively defending the United States in the Army.”
There are around 2.2 billion Muslims in the world, roughly 10 million of which are in the United States. A third of the 10 million come from outside the United States and another third are those born within the U.S. who later converted to Islam.
“We are part of the community,” said Dr. Naved Qudsi, a dental surgeon in Ogdensburg who attended the mosque in Calcium this week as his in Potsdam is still closed. “We take care of the community. We are serving the community. We are giving more every day.”
As for fear-mongering or the “Us and Them” attitude that is sometimes purveyed across the country, Dr. Kahn said of course they don’t feel that way, but it is out there. He said it’s motivated by politicians and not a reflection of the Islamic faith, which in large part stands for peace, compassion, love, charity, forgiveness and faith.
“Their stock in the trade is to turn a group of people against another, sewing division and hate,” Dr. Kahn said. “The basic tenet of Islam is peace. It’s not something to be said once a year or twice a year, but we have to live it.”
Dr. Kahn said the mosque is looking forward to restarting its interfaith, bridge-building outreach program with the community — especially at Jefferson Community College. And this is made possible in large part due to the country which he lives.
“The United States is the last beacon of hope for humanity,” Dr. Kahn said. “The reason why is we have people from every single country in the world. It is the greatest country in the world. Let’s now work hard to make it even greater, but we are not perfect. We are human beings. We are a work-in-progress, but the United States is the last hope where we have the freedom to voice our opinions.”