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San Francisco's Oldest Mosque Vandalized

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Members of the Islamic Center of San Francisco are shaken after someone vandalized their mosque, the city's oldest, on Friday night. Leaders who serve on the board say it is rare to see a crime against their house of worship at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Andover Street just north of Alemany Blvd.

"We're scared, we were uncertain, we didn't understand what was happening because we haven't experienced something like this in our community in a long time," said Shahbaz Shaikh, a mosque resident scholar. "We're a part of this community, we're a part of the Bernal Heights community."

San Francisco Mosque Struck by Vandalism
A vandal smashed a window at this San Francisco mosque. (CBS)

San Francisco police say a suspect threw a bottle through a glass window causing it to shatter and then ran away.

Shaikh told KPIX on Sunday that a member of the mosque happened to be approaching the building at that time to return supplies and heard the sound of glass breaking. No one was inside the mosque, which hold prayers throughout the day. Friday is typically a busy day for members to attend services.

"We're not sure what the intent of this person was, you know, we're scared," said Zuhaib Siddique, a board member for the mosque. "As a Muslim community, of course, we're always a little scared."

Police have not identified a motive for this crime but say they are investigating the case.

The bottle not only stained the carpet with beer but spread glass over the floor. Siddique said they are in the process of ordering a new window to replace the one smashed. The mosque will also get an updated security system. Their members have already offered to help with the cost and the neighborhood has expressed its support after learning about the crime.

Surveillance video shows someone running away that night but the footage is not sufficiently clear to identify a suspect.

"The community is shaken and we want to take the time to just ask the San Francisco police department to do their due diligence and really catch this person who committed this act," Shaikh added. "In this community, they view us not just as Muslim neighbors but as neighbors and that we're a part of the community."

Siddique told KPIX on Sunday the mosque dates back to the 1950s and it is one of the oldest in California. Members who have prayed here for decades say they cannot remember another crime like this happening to the mosque since right after Sept. 11. Not just a place of worship, it is an important setting for families to gather for celebrations and funerals.

"A prayer center, it's a community center, it's a home for Muslims so when an attack like this on us happens we feel like our home was attacked," Shaikh said.

While the mosque is taking steps to make its members feel safe, leaders also hope the suspect will want to learn more about their community in addition to facing the consequences for their actions.

"We're hoping to open more dialogue, we hope that the person who did this will someday come visit the mosque and sit down with us, learn from us," Siddique said.

Prayers continued at the mosque over the weekend and members arrived throughout the day Sunday. Staff have taped up the window for now until it can be replaced.

"This is home for us and we're going to continue on as business as usual," Shaikh said.

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