For Muslims everywhere this week marks the second in the holy month of Ramadan, a time spent fasting from dawn to dusk, reciting Quran, and attending the mosque in the evenings for special Taraweeh prayers.
But since the tragic incident at Pulse nightclub that left 50 people dead and more than 50 people injured, Muslims who live in Orlando and the surrounding areas have been advised to take serious precautions.
A mass email from Masjid Taqwa near Orlando notified its members late Monday evening of increased security measures. The email read:
“Orlando Sheriff Department will provide security tonight at Taqwa Masjid against any retaliation from Orlando mass shootings. Please stay inside Masjid during Maghrib and Taraweeh salah and let’s pray together for all the victims and families affected in this tragic event.”
The Islamic Center of Orlando also took action and altered their routine Ramadan activities, as seen in this Facebook live video posted by Fusion Media Network late Sunday evening. The broadcast, which gained over 100K views, asked both members and mosque leaders for their thoughts following the nearby terror attack.
In an interview with Fusion, an employee of the mosque stated that women and small children were requested not to attend this week’s Iftar meals at the mosque for safety reasons. He added the decision was made after consultation with local law enforcement.
The following email was also sent in order to caution fellow ICO members:
The employee also commented on various social media threats their location had received throughout that day.
“I run the Facebook page,” he said. “It’s been a lot of Islamophobia, a lot of negative comments.”
A candlelight vigil organized by The Islamic Center of Orlando followed Sunday’s Iftar meal. Although their attendance was not the usual, the public display of remembrance for the victims and the shattered LGBTQ+ community was captured by PBS Newshour and posted to their Facebook page.
Another well-known mosque in the Orlando area, Masjid Al-Rahim, decided to use only one entrance for both males and females following the attack. The change attempts to provide extra protection for women and children, who normally use a separate back entrance. The property recently installed cameras for extra security measures.
“It makes me feel scared. I come to the masjid to feel at peace and it’s always a safe place. I didn’t go Sunday due to a threat that was called in,” said UCF student and Al-Rahim member Fareesha Saleena Ally.
While many Muslims, women especially, are on the lookout for sudden possible acts of retaliation, not everyone shows major concerns for their own safety.
American convert Ayah Alsalemi says she doesn’t fear any possible backlash. Despite the growing concerns for Muslim women who cover, she has continued with her job as an Uber driver in Orlando. She not only refuses to remove her hijab while working, but she openly tells clients who ask about it.
“My faith in Allah is bigger than the people Allah created. I will not walk around being afraid someone is going to attack me. I take pride in my religion and I view fear coming from the devil,” Alsalemi said.
“Remember, Allah is bigger than all of this” said the mother of three in a plea to sisters who have started to remove their hijab and taken to hiding out at home.
But mosques weren’t the only Muslim frequented establishments to take precautions after Sunday’s events. Muslim women’s clothing store Verona, which recently opened at Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, shut down following the mass shooting. In a interview with Fusion, owner Lisa Vogl said she sent home associates who were scheduled to work for safety reasons.
As law enforcement continues to piece together the details of that horrific night events earlier this week, Orlando Muslims must not only mourn the devastating loss in their own community but also work together to ensure a safe and peaceful rest of Ramadan.