Under the cover of darkness Sunday night, vandals downed alcohol, threw rocks and smashed the windows—along with over a decade of hard work, financial sacrifices and prayers—of a Chantilly mosque.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community was reeling Monday after learning of the destruction at the construction site, which leaders estimated could cost up to $60,000 to repair. The vandals took out most of the glass windows and doors on the first floor, and even two windows high on the second floor.
“It’s kind of devastating to see," said Usman Ghumman, the general secretary. "All the windows are smashed in, like in an insane way. Like somebody went systematically, door to door, to whatever’s reachable.”
More upsetting than the financial damage, however, is the fact that the mosque's opening will now have to be delayed. The glass was specially-ordered and shaped, and cost between $3,000 to $6,000 per window, Ghumman said. It will take a long time to order and replace it, even if the insurance covers the entire cost in a timely fashion.
When the construction workers—who had been putting extra hours in on the weekends so the mosque could open in late February—left the site around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the site was fine. When the morning crew arrived early Monday, shards of glass were everywhere. The majority of the windows on the first floor were broken. Beer cans and empty alcohol containers were strewn all over—"enough for 20 men," said Tariq Hassan, of EMSI Engineering, the company building the mosque.
Ghumman said the vandals did not steal anything from the mosque, so he believes that they were specifically targeted, due to the amount of effort it would have taken to vandalize the building.
The irony is the Ahmadiyya Muslim community promotes peace, he said. Their motto is "love for all, hatred for none." The community is persecuted in some Islamic countries because of some of their beliefs, but hoped to reside peacefully in "a community where the Constitution says every man is able to worship, and there's freedom of religion,” Ghumman said.
Ghumman and his community have experienced devastating vandalism before. Six or seven years ago, vandals broke into another mosque in the DC area and desecrated the Koran, he said.
The construction of the new mosque near Westfields Boulevard had evoked opposition from nearby neighborhoods over certain elements of the project, such as the height of the dome. After more than a decade of preparation, though, the community was finally ready to open the mosque, tentatively planned for the end of February.
Fairfax County police have dedicated considerable time and resources to finding the perpetrator or perpetrators. Detectives were investigating the site for a good portion of the day, and brought a dog to sniff over the area. The investigation is in early stages, but a priority for the officers at the Sully District Station. Anyone with information may contact Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477.
As for the community, they have filed an insurance claim and intend to press charges against whoever vandalized the area.
“When things come along so well, you don’t expect it," Ghumman said. "Like it was too good to be true. Then all of a sudden something like this happens. It sets you back.”
Note: this article was published Jan. 31, 2012.