Crime brings community together

With a total population of 50,000 people total in Harrisonburg, Virginia, there are

not many Muslims. The total population number drops to 25,000 when students from local

universities go home for the summer. The Islamic Center of the Shenandoah Valley

offers the Muslim population a place to practice their religion with other Muslims

in the area. This is the only Mosque in Harrisonburg.

This place of peace became a place of sadness on September 13, 2012. The mosque

fell victim to vandals that covered the building with spray paint. The vandalism

included several racial slurs and offensive references against Muslims. The mosque

has been in existence since 1998, and local director Eshan Ahmed said, “ Nothing

like this has ever happened to us before, even after 9/11.” The vandalism caught

the attention of the community around the mosque, and We Are All Harrisonburg.

We are all Harrisonburg decided to schedule an event at the mosque three days

later. This event was made public to anyone who wanted to attend, and had a purpose

to turn the hateful crime into an opportunity to unite the community. Within a day

of the event being scheduled, over 500 people committed to attend the event. The

event included people of all faiths, races, and ages.

The Washington Post was one of many other media outlets that were in attendance at

the event. The event had a number of speakers from different background that shared

a few positive words to those in attendance. Members of the mosque expressed

gratitude for those in attendance. The event showed that the vandalism was an

isolated incident, and that not all people in Harrisonburg were full of hate like

the criminals that committed such a horrible crime.

When I first heard this story it made me grateful that I lived in a city that had a

group of caring, open-minded people. It frustrated me to learn that within the same

population could be the criminal that committed this crime.  Events like this are

needed to break down stereotypes, and single stories. Not just stereotypes about

the muslim community, but also stereotypes about people that are not apart of  the

muslim community.