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As Ramadan Begins, Bay Area Mosques Step Up Security Measures

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Bay Area mosques are stepping up security as they enter Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic religion.

"People are expressing fear about going to the mosque and mosque leaders are having to double-down on security plans," said Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

Last Tuesday, Sunnyvale police said Isaiah Peoples intentionally ran over a group of people he believed were Muslims. The incident is just one among of string of hate crimes in recent weeks.

Akbar Syed, the president of the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, said he is taking extra security measures for the month of Ramadan.

On Sunday, the first day of the holy month, the mosque is expected to be packed with an estimated 500 people.

Syed said they recently installed surveillance cameras in- and outside the mosque, hired security guards and now lock their gates after each prayer to prevent people from entering the facility.

He said everyone who sets foot on the property is being monitored in real time with surveillance cameras.

During Ramadan, Syed saidk the center will be the "safest place to be," and he added there are other security measures in place that he didn't want to make public.

After a gunman opened fire at two New Zealand mosques several weeks ago, San Jose police held an active shooter seminar at the center.

"Mosques in this region and across the country have had really serious conversations and spent resources hiring private security, working with off duty, working with police departments to increase patrols, installing cameras," said Billoo. "No one should have to worry about whether or not going to church, synagogue, a mosque or any other place of worship will be their last time praying."

Syed emphasized that everyone is welcome at the mosque for Ramadan. In fact, you can say one of the ways Syed combats the misconceptions and fears about the Muslim religion is by opening Evergreen Islamic Center's doors to the community and educating people.

"It's meant to bring everybody together," he said. "In our faith, killing one human being is like killing the entire humanity."

A San Jose police spokesperson confirmed there will be patrol checks at mosques and other houses of worship this weekend, as well as stepped up patrols and specialized units for the Cinco de Mayo weekend. Patrol officers will be working 12-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

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