Mosque attack creates tension

A man drove his truck into the front of the Islamic Center of Tallahassee prompting discussions of increased security measures at the local mosque.

A federal grand jury indicted Charles Franklin, 51, of Tallahassee, on April 16 for the crime, which was committed on March 26.

After the incident, a police news release reported that Franklin told officers he could have blown up the Islamic center if propane tanks were attached to his truck. Franklin was charged with violating a hate crime law that prohibits damage of religious property. If convicted, he could be serving a maximum of twenty years in prison.

With the anniversary of the attacks at hand tensions at the center are heightened. Shaheen said, “We’ve been a lot more concerned that other people like him could be targeting the Islamic centers.”

Last Friday, Shahid A. Shaheen, chairperson of the Shura Council at the mosque and a physics professor at Florida State University, supervised the installation of additional lighting on the sides and back of the Islamic Center. According to Shaheen, mosque officials have asked the Tallahassee Police Department to patrol the West Pensacola Street area more often, especially during Salat, the five-time daily prayer.

The TPD has also agreed to station a police officer at the center each Friday during Ju’muah.

These concerns are nothing short of reality. The Council on American-Islamic Relations collected reports on anti-Muslim related crimes and has recorded 1,800 incidents nationwide since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Robert J. Goldstein, a podiatrist from Tampa was arrested Aug. 22 and accused of conspiring to blow up various Islamic centers across Florida.

Police found enough explosives in his home to destroy his 200-unit townhouse complex. Authorities also found a typed list of approximately 50 Islamic mosques in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area with instructions detailing Goldstein’s plans.

According to Officer Mark A. Zadra of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there was no known conspiracy between the Goldstein incident and the hate crime in March against the Islamic Center of Tallahassee.

The incident gave various religious groups an opportunity to develop collaborative relationships. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and members of the Bahai religion volunteered at the mosque in May to help repair any damages to the building.

Several local businesses contributed to the efforts of the volunteers by donating supplies or food for the occasion.

Mosque officials have also received support from the mayor’s office and the FDLE. Officer Kevin Taylor from the North Florida Domestic Security Task Force was one of two officers who surveyed the Islamic center’s property on Aug. 27.

In regards to the support received, Shaheen said, “We are happy with the local authorities. They have cooperated well with us.”