RICHMOND, Va. -- Recent terror attacks in California and Paris, and a call from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from coming to the United States have members of Richmond’s Muslim community very concerned. Imam Ammar Amonette, with the Islamic Center of Virginia, said he has heard of local instances where a child in his congregation was harassed getting off a school bus and women in headscarves were being called names.
“We've seen a little uptick of hate crimes or hate speech,” Amonette said. “People say you're a terrorist or go home.”
The recent events are also leading to a more watchful public.
CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit found two recent Facebook posts from folks in Henrico and Richmond who said they called police after allegedly witnessing suspicious behavior involving Muslims.
“The fear factor is pretty high right now, and a lot of that fear is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding,” Dana Schrard, the Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said. “While we don't want people to be paranoid and we don't want people to overact to their neighbors simply because they are Muslims, we do want people to report because that is the only way law enforcement can do something preventative.”
Schrad recommended getting to know your neighbors so you can properly identify something out of the ordinary. She also said people need to be reminded that the Muslim community in the U.S. is very helpful to law enforcement.
“They are very much involved in helping law enforcement to identify any terrorist activity in the community,” Schrad said.
Amonette said he encouraged his congregation to keep a close eye on what their children do online to make sure they were not interfacing with ISIS. He also said the congregation is asked to report anything suspicious immediately.
“We encourage everyone to go directly to the authorities or community leaders and report what is going on,” Amonette said.
Amonette said he planned to hold a community meeting with law enforcement in the near future. Also, some people who live near the Islamic Center of Virginia posted a sign last week supporting the local Muslim community.