SF city, faith leaders join Muslim community following mosque attack; suspect pleads not guilty

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Saturday, April 13, 2024
SF city, faith leaders join Muslim community following mosque attack
Surveillance video from Masjid al-Tawheed in San Francisco captures a man smashing the mosque's windows during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Surveillance video from Masjid al-Tawheed in San Francisco captures a man smashing the mosque's windows last week, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"You see the mosque at its fullest during the month of Ramadan," says Imam Mohammed Alnuzaili. He leads daily prayer services at the mosque.

He was joined by city and faith leaders ahead of its weekly Friday congregation prayers. It was a show of solidarity amidst the rising anti-Muslim hate incidents reported across the country.

"We realized that we had to do something on behalf of the Muslim community of San Francisco, and on behalf of Masjid al-Tawheed," said Hala Hijazi, chairwoman of the SFPD's Chief's Muslim Advisory Board. She is one of the organizers of the event.

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Imam Alnuzaili says he was able to confront the suspect when he targeted the mosque for a third time on April 10 -- the same day the suspect was arrested. April 10 was also Eid-al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.

"It was some racist remarks, which I told him, these are not justifiable causes for you to come vandalize our property and cause our people to be unsafe," Alnuzaili said.

The suspect is 35-year-old Robert Gray, who plead not guilty in court on Friday to charges of felony vandalism with special allegations of a hate crime. He was held without bail.

Surveillance video shows Gray allegedly breaking the mosque's windows with a skateboard. He also damaged the entrance, sprayed graffiti and yelled Islamophobic slurs at people inside.

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But Gray's lawyer believes that the mosque attack did not constitute a hate crime.

"There are some statements made, but nothing that appears to be kind of ethnic or religious animus, at all," said Jack Lamar Jr., San Francisco Deputy Public Defender, who represents Gray.

Gray was currently out on bail for a felony case in San Mateo, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

"It is brazen. It is bold. And you're going to just keep coming over and over again? We are very thankful for the partnership with the mosque," said Assistant San Francisco Police Chief David Lazar.

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In response to the attack, Lazar says SFPD officers were stationed in front of mosques across the city the last week of Ramadan.

He has a message for the community: "We don't want mosques or places of worship, churches, to just see incidents and not think about calling us. We want them to report everything going on. It's really important to us."

Imam Alnuzaili says his mosque is being vigilant. He adds, with this show of community support, they now know they are not alone.

"We hope peace and blessings are spread across all communities, and hope that such instances do not impact anybody. And we certainly hope that the city of San Francisco and the police department continues to do the great work that they do," says the imam.

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