Support voiced for Morton Grove mosque after air-rifle attack
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:34AM
MORTON GROVE — Morton Grove police records show there was an ongoing feud between a Morton Grove mosque and the neighbor charged with firing a high-powered pellet rifle at the building’s exterior Aug. 10 while more than 500 people prayed inside during Ramadan.
Suspect David Conrad has since been released after posting bail, and is charged with three felony counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one felony count of criminal damage to property stemming from the attack on the Muslim Education Center.
A Cook County judge ordered Conrad to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet upon his release, surrender any guns he owns, and to avoid contact with the mosque and its members.
“Over the years there have been various noise-complaint calls from the offender,” Morton Grove Chief of Police Mark Erickson said. “In the past, they tried to work out issues among themselves without the police being involved, and the mosque has done everything they could to minimize noise at night during Ramadan, so it hadn’t been much of an issue lately.”
No one was hurt during the incident, which was the second attack on Chicago-area mosques that week.
A 2-liter plastic bottle filled with acid and other chemicals was hurled at College Prep School of America, an Islamic school Lombard, two days after the Morton Grove attack. No injuries were reported in the second attack.
Public officials have since voiced concerns over growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
“Muslims as well as other cultural or religious groups should feel safe in their place of worship and in their communities,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-9th, in a statement. “More urgently than ever, we must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for threats against any community that undermine and violate the very essence of what our nation is about.”
Among the strong community support the Muslim Education Center has received since the incident, members of the Winnetka Presbyterian Church — which developed an interfaith relationship with the mosque back in April — showed support for their friends by greeting mosque members Aug. 17 before evening prayers began.
“We just want to let them know we’re here to support them, and show that our community embraces their community” said Kathy McNair, a minister at Winnetka Presbyterian Church. “For this to happen is chilling, and we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue.”
The Winnetka Presbyterian Church invited the Muslim Education Center to dinner at its congregation last spring, and mosque officials later invited their new friends to join them for an Iftar meal, which is an evening meal in which Muslims break their fast during Ramadan.
“They invited us to pray with them, and we were given a wonderful explanation of what the meaning of Ramadan is,” McNair said. “It’s been sort of an introduction to each other’s faiths, and with each month we get closer.”
After the shooting at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee and other recent threats at mosques in Missouri and Rhode Island, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Chicago warned Muslim institutions to take extra precautions during Ramadan, issuing a community safety advisory for American mosques.