Photo by Sonia Col
Police officers from the 40th Precinct stationed in front of the Masjid Ebun Abass Mosque. Photo by Sonia Colón

The Masjid Ebun Abass Mosque on the corner of Alexander and Third avenues was damaged by BB pellet shootings during the holy period of Ramadan. The police have classified the acts of vandalism as hate crimes and the mosque is now being guarded around the clock by officers from the 40th Precinct.

The shootings, which took place on May 28, are a repeat of a crime which happened last year during Ramadan when a vandal shot at the mosque with a BB gun.

No one was injured, but those who attend the mosque remain wary about their safety, especially with Ramadan coming to a close and the community celebrating Eid al-Fitr on June 15.

“We are worried, especially for the younger ones; we don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Siku Bokum, 22, a congregant of the mosque. “But having the police presence is great. We’re still concerned, and we hope that it doesn’t escalate into real bullets, and we’re worried for our safety but we’re optimistic it isn’t going to happen.”

Regardless of their worry, the congregants have continued to pray. Inside, the mosque is filled by the sound of soft prayer, muslim prayer songs and bare feet on the red and gold velvet carpet.

Due to the repeated shootings both this year and last, the 40th Precinct has left a large NYPD van posted in front, effectively blocking the mosque from the eye-line of anyone across the street in NYCHA’s Mott Haven Houses, where police believe the pellets were fired from.

Those who attend the mosque say they are not angry about the situation.

“As it continued to happen we realized that obviously we were being targeted,” said Bokum. “We just want to say to whoever is responsible that we forgive them, especially in this month of Ramadan.”

People in the neighborhood attribute the vandalism to the cultural and religious differences between Muslims and the rest of the neighborhood.

“It’s new to the neighborhood, it’s a completely different culture,” said Aureo Cardona, 69. “Even their children kind of clash with our children because they just wear all the different clothing and everything else but they’re kids. Kids are kids. It’s just getting used to it.”

Benigno Agosto, 54, a resident of the Mott Haven Houses across the street, sympathizes with the mosque and says that the police are not doing enough.

“They [the police] don’t walk into these projects like that, but they’ve been doing that for a minute already. After a while the police will come up and show their presence, but then they’ll leave and a couple of weeks later it’ll start again and it’ll take them five to seven days to come over and investigate” said Agosto. “They should have cops on foot in the neighborhood, not in their car. This ain’t the first time this happened either. I feel for the Muslim community.”

The mosque has been a part of the Mott Haven community for more than 10 years. According to NYPD statistics, there has only been one felony assault hate crime complaint filed in 2018, and zero arrests made by the 40th Precinct throughout all of 2017 for hate crimes.

The NYPD recorded a 31 percent drop overall in hate crimes against Muslims between this year and last.

Citywide, hate crimes against Muslims have decreased 31 percent since 2017, from 13 incidents last year to nine this year, according to statistics provided by the NYPD.

While police still have not made any arrests in the case, the congregants of the Masjid Ebun Abass Mosque continue to worship every day for the month of Ramadan, and remain hopeful.

“We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, only God knows what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Ibrahim Kante, 22. “We just hope it doesn’t happen again.”

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