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Was Islamic Center Window Smash a Hate Crime?

Someone smashed a window in this Santa Clara Avenue building once used by the Islamic Center of Alameda (Action Alameda News)

Someone smashed a window in this Santa Clara Avenue building once used by the Islamic Center of Alameda (Action Alameda News)

Overnight last Thursday evening, someone broke a window at a Santa Clara Avenue building once used by the Islamic Center of Alameda, raising questions about whether the act was a hate crime.

A crossing guard working for the Alameda Police Department discovered the broken window on Friday morning and called it in.

The Islamic Center proper is located at 901 Santa Clara Avenue, but across Ninth Street, also on Santa Clara is a building posted with “Islamic Center of Alameda” signs and once used by the center.

Late Wednesday, the Imam was not at the center, but worshippers there explained that women would attend prayers at the second building, connected to the main building by a video feed. The second building was also used for community events, they said.

(Nobody had responded by press time to a request for comment through the center’s Facebook page.)

However, the building has been closed and vacant since a fire in an upstairs apartment some months ago, and the power and gas has been shut off.

A man who gave only his first name, Azim, and who prays at the center, told Action Alameda News that the window smash was retaliation, “for the attacks in San Bernadino. We saw the same thing after 9/11 and recently mosques have been been set on fire.”

Azim said Alameda police should have been more proactive in watching out for violence at the two mosques here in town.

However, there was apparently no burglary of the building, or other damage like graffiti, to suggest the act was motivated by reactions to recent violent attacks in California and elsewhere apparently rooted in Islamic extremism.

So far, the Alameda police department is treating the smashed window as an act of vandalism.

Police chief Paul Rolleri told Action Alameda News, that although the Imam has been quoted in other news outlets as having asked authorities to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime, he hasn’t yet responded to calls from Alameda police investigators.

With the building vacant for eight months, and the crossing guard discovering the broken window, police took a report with representatives of the building’s owner rather than from anyone affiliated with the Islamic center.

So far, Rolleri said, “all we have is a broken window at this point. We didn’t receive any reports of the crime in-progress. We did consider that it might be a hate crime, but we didn’t have anything else.”

Nonetheless, Rolleri insisted that the police department is “committed to doing everything we can to provide a safe and secure place to worship.”

As Action Alameda News spoke with Azim, children played with a ball on the grounds.

Asked if he felt unsafe in response to a destructive act he believes was targeted at local Muslims, Azim said, “No. This isn’t going to stop us from worshipping.”

He then broke off the conversation to answer an evening call to prayer.

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