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Leaders and members of Lakewood's Rocky Mountain Islamic Center are taking a series of threatening and offensive phone calls received early on June 5 and 6 very seriously, especially in light of an increase in anti-Muslim bigotry and attacks nationwide.
The center received multiple calls from an unnamed man who used "colorful language" and said the mosque and its members would "pay for Manchester and London," said Ayman Hama, Iman of the center.
"He started making threatening remarks, and that was the tipping point," he said. "We filed a report with the Lakewood Police, and have hired security for our facility."In response to the calls and threats, Lakewood Police will spend more time patroling the mosque's area, which is located at 8054 W. Jewell Ave., said Steve Davis, public information officer with Lakewood's police department.
"Our officers have leads they're following up on, and we're working with other jurisdictions where this individual may also have called," Davis said. "This is the kind of thing we do for any and all properties, no matter the faith, when they receive threats or may be in danger."
Data from the FBI showed a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States in 2015, the latest year statistics are available. A total of 257 incidents were called in to police — more may have gone unreported.Islamic leaders, officials in law enforcement and anti-discrimination groups all point out that retaliatory attacks against mosques and Muslim individuals tend to spike after terrorist attacks like the recent ones in Manchester and London and last year's shooting in Orlando, Florida. They say there has been a steady increase in these incidents since 2014.
But this kind of behavior in Lakewood is rare, Davis said. "I can't remember the last time anything like this occurred in Lakewood."
The most concerning thing for Hama was the fact the person called multiple times and even sent texts.
"He seemed very determined," Hama said. "We know it takes only one person to do a lot of damage."
The Islamic Center has long made a priority of hosting community outreach events to neighbors and people who want to learn more about a faith that Hama said is often misrepresented. Despite the threats, he said the center will continue this outreach.
"Overall, the support we get from neighbors and our community, whether online, over the phone or in person, is so overwhelmingly positive," he said. "We know this individual doesn't represent the greater community at all."
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