As Crime Visits Mosques, the Imams Grow Anxious

March 9, 2008


Source: The New York Times

IN the predawn darkness, Mohamed Azeem Khan unlocked the front doors of the mosque in Jamaica, Queens, to prepare for the morning prayer. For Mr. Khan, the imam of Masjid Omar Ben Abdel-Aziz for 18 years, opening the mosque every morning has become as routine as the rising sun.

But on this particular day, Feb. 1, Mr. Khan realized that something was amiss as soon as he stepped inside the beige, boxy two-story building on 161st Street near Hillside Avenue. His office door was ajar and the light was on. The door to the boiler room was also open, as was the back exit.

Inside his office, Mr. Khan saw that a safe containing the money used to pay for Saturday classes for children was gone, along with the petty cash that had been locked in a desk drawer. Upstairs, near the prayer hall, the zakat, money donated by Muslims to charity, was missing from two steel boxes.