'Prayer Can't Be Our Only Form Of Defense': Mosques Eye Security For Ramadan Mosques around the U.S. are taking security seriously in the aftermath of the New Zealand massacres and other attacks on houses of worship.
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'Prayer Can't Be Our Only Form Of Defense': Mosques Eye Security For Ramadan

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'Prayer Can't Be Our Only Form Of Defense': Mosques Eye Security For Ramadan

'Prayer Can't Be Our Only Form Of Defense': Mosques Eye Security For Ramadan

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins tomorrow evening, and mosques around the country are focused on security in the aftermath of the New Zealand massacres and attacks on synagogues, churches and other houses of worship here in the U.S. From Colorado Springs, Ali Budner of member station KRCC reports on how mosques there are preparing to celebrate Ramadan with safety in mind.

ALI BUDNER, BYLINE: The Islamic Society of Colorado Springs meets in a one-story brick building in a residential neighborhood - no domes or minarets, no eye-level windows, either.

KAMEL ELWAZEIR: So welcome to the mosque.

BUDNER: Kamel Elwazeir is the group's president. And he says preparations for weekly prayer are key.

ELWAZEIR: We try to get in early on Friday just to inspect the building on the outside and make sure everything is fine, nothing has been broken into or nothing suspicious.

BUDNER: Elwazeir says usually if he finds objects left at the mosque's door, though, it's flowers or cards of solidarity or condolence, like the ones that poured in after the recent terror attacks in New Zealand. And he tries not to dwell in fear. But still, he says, the mosque has to be cautious.

ELWAZEIR: It was truly sickening, but it's part of our life. It's part of our society that we have to be prepared in case of an emergency.

BUDNER: Elwazeir pulls his phone out of his pocket and shows me an app connected to several surveillance cameras around the property.

ELWAZEIR: If there's anything triggers movement in the middle of the night or during unusual hours, this way, at least we'll know.

BUDNER: And he says the mosque has a few people stay outside the building during prayer services.

ELWAZEIR: Many times, we have police presence outside. We have other measures of security. It's just, you know, not a good idea to discuss them publicly.

BUDNER: That's also a concern for the Colorado Muslim Society based in Aurora, Colo., where Iman Jodeh says she's been thinking a lot about safety logistics.

IMAN JODEH: Obviously, just understanding how much I am able to divulge to the public around this topic is difficult. And I have to put the safety of our congregation first.

BUDNER: She does say attendance dropped off for several weeks right after the New Zealand attacks.

JODEH: We're back at full attendance now. We are ramping up for Ramadan, which is our holiest month in the lunar calendar. And people are excited for that, you know? And I don't think any amount of violence or threat level will ever be able to take that away from us.

BUDNER: And yet, safety is a real concern for the families worshiping here.

JODEH: Even as a religious community, we realize that prayer can't be our only form of defense.

BUDNER: They've partnered with law enforcement to get safety trainings, including active-shooter trainings. And now they've opened those to other religious leaders.

JODEH: It's not just the Muslim community. We're feeling this need to step up and protect our parishioners.

JAY SHERWOOD: We live in a world that is filled with a lot of hate speech. And it comes from our politicians. And it comes from community leaders. And it's not just in Colorado. And it's not just in America.

BUDNER: Jay Sherwood is the rabbi at Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs and a member of the local interfaith council here. Sherwood says real, tangible safety precautions are critical these days. But he says beyond that, ordinary people just need to start standing up for what's right.

SHERWOOD: When you hear hate speech, stop it. That means if you hear it from your teacher, if you hear it from your child, if you hear it from the person in the booth next to you at the restaurant. If we stop hate speech, at least that's one little step in the right direction.

BUDNER: And Sherwood says that's a direction in which all communities of faith need to move.

For NPR News, I'm Ali Budner in Colorado Springs.

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