Vigil held at mosque hit by hate arson (Video)

Vigil held for Escondido mosque that was under fire earlier that day, Sunday, March 24, 2019/NBC San Diego 7

A Sunday night vigil attracted at least 100 Escondido residents to the downtown mosque that was hit by hate arson earlier that morning. For more on the attack, see story below.

Benjamin Martinez posted video of the event held at Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque at 318 W. Sixth Ave. in downtown Escondido. The one-hour vigil featured support and prayers from the community on behalf of the mosque.

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The interfaith prayer and security vigil that took place on Sunday evening drew several hundred people to a street corner near the mosque, according to The Washington Post.

People of “every faith” were present, said Nehal Hasan, a member of the local Muslim community who came to the United States from India in 2007. Muslims were San Diego County’s fastest-growing religious demographicbetween 2000 and 2010, according to census data. In the northern part of the county, where Escondido is located, three mosques serve the Muslim population, which members say is less active than in bigger cities.

“My perception is that this country is the most beautiful place on the Earth,” Hasan said. “If people commit these kinds of acts, we have to show that something good can come of it.”

Still, he sees cause for alarm in the nation that welcomed him more than a decade ago. Hate crimes targeting American Muslims rose by 15 percent in 2017, according to a report released last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The uptick in anti-Muslim incidents in 2017 came after the previous year had already earned disrepute as “the worst year on record for incidents in which mosques were targets of bias,” according to CAIR. The organization documented 139 instances of damage, destruction or vandalism in 2016 — the highest figure since it began keeping count in 2009. Mosques from Austin to Bellevue, Wash., came under attack.

Sarah Brown told FOX 5 she lived in the area and attended the event to show support for the Muslim community. “I’m not religious, but i wanted to show people that I won’t tolerate this in my neighborhood,” Brown explained.

Yusef Miller, a mosque spokesman at the scene, said he expected anti-Muslim animus to flare following the attack in New Zealand, but not in his own backyard — “some larger city, maybe, with a larger and more active Muslim population.” He said the fire in Escondido was the first attack to come to his attention in the U.S. that expressly drew from the events in Christchurch.

“The purpose of this kind of act is to create fear so you don’t go to your place of worship,” Mohammad Molla, a member of the Escondido-based Islamic Society of North County, said in an interview with The Post.

He confessed to having macabre thoughts when he picked up his 7-year-old daughter from school on Friday and brought her to mosque for afternoon prayers, glancing anxiously at their possible escape routes.

“But you can’t live in fear,” he said. “If you do, the terrorists have won.”

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