Mosque Attendance Falls After Terrorism Arrests

May 30, 2007

Author: Dina Temple-Raston

Source: NPR

Midday prayers at the South Jersey Islamic Center in Palmyra often have thin attendance, but since the arrest of a handful of its members, attendance has plummeted. The hundreds of congregants who used to show up for Friday evening prayers now number just dozens. People who had prayed there for years are now staying away.

Ejlvir, Shain and Dritan Duka are among six New Jersey men accused of plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix. The FBI has said they were part of a homegrown terrorist cell intent on launching a jihad in New Jersey. Agents had been tracking the Duka brothers for more than 15 months before the arrests in early May; since then, Muslims around the mosque have been treading carefully.

"There may be a tendency to believe we are being watched," said Ismail Badat, who is one of the mosque's trustees. He and his wife are founding members of the center and helped buy the two-story former Catholic Church that now houses the mosque.

"Frankly, it is possible we are being watched," he said. "The congregation is open to anybody — you can come and go as you like. We don't sanction anybody before they enter the doors. So people may feel they don't want to be involved."