The West End Islamic Center was vandalized a day after University of Richmond students had gone to pray and break their fast for Ramadan on April 16.
WEIC was vandalized for the second time within six months between the hours of 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., a WEIC spokesperson said.
The prayer space was vandalized with graffiti, broken windows and flipped chairs and tables, according to the police. The damage cost was up to $2,000 and the perpetrators were not caught on security cameras, the WEIC spokesperson said.
For ten years, WEIC was renting out school gyms and other public spaces for Muslims to pray in during Ramadan, said Waleed Ilyas, UR's Muslim Chaplain. The vandalism of the property took place in the newly renovated prayer space.
"It’s really heartbreaking that you get this space to finally open that was built from the community to the community, and then in one and a half weeks, this happens,” he said.
As part of Muslim Life at UR, a community space for students to learn and practice Islam, Ilyas took first-year students Ifti Alam and Saad Shabbir to break fast, also known as iftar, at the WEIC the night before the attack, Ilyas said.
“I haven’t told my parents about what happened,” Alam said. “I don’t think I will just because it’s a matter of safety, and they don’t want to hear that a mosque their son goes to got vandalized.”
Ramadan is the ninth and one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar. Practicing Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The purpose of Ramadan is multifaceted and different for everyone, but it includes growing a closer relationship with God, self-reflection and having compassion for the less fortunate.
"It’s a terrorist attack against our community,” Shabbir said. “Especially during the last ten days of Ramadan when many Muslims spend a lot of time at the mosque. Thank God nobody got hurt though.”
Both Alam and Shabbir wished there was a greater response from UR regarding the attack.
“The president made a statement about Ukraine and Russia, which is important, but you have this going on in your backyard and you have students that were affected by it, and I see no response from the university,” Alam said.
Posting on social media is one way to get people's attention, Shabbir said.
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“If more people know what’s going on in the city of Richmond, it promotes dialogue," Shabbir said. “I feel like we’re trapped in this UR bubble right now.”
Muslim Life at UR posted an Instagram story on April 17, stating their support for WEIC.
“Please know that we are here to hold space for our Muslim students and those in need of support,” the statement read.
Alam plans to go back to WEIC before the end of the school year, Alam said.
“I know it’s dangerous to go, but I need to see it,” he said. “That’s my second home.”
UR community members can donate to WEIC to support construction and repair. UR community members can also reach out to Ilyas or the Office of the Chaplaincy for additional support.
Contact news writer Ananya Chetia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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