OLYMPIA, Wash. — In the winter of 2017, leaders of the Islamic Center of Olympia felt they needed to increase security following a series of anti-Muslim acts of vandalism around the country.
Instead of installing fences or hiring armed guards, mosque members went to the community for help.
They asked for people to sit outside of the mosque during Friday afternoon services, the best-attended of the week.
”It’s not fair. You should be safe in your house of worship,” said Linda Anthony, one of the organizers of the volunteers.
A member of the “Mosqueteers” has been present outside the mosque every Friday afternoon since February of 2017.
The mosque built a shelter for the volunteers so they don’t have to stand out in the elements.
”Having somebody out there who is watching makes a big difference to us,” said mosque member Mustafa Mohamedali.
He said the mosque continues to have threats called in and members have heard people yell obscenities as they drive by, but not during Friday services.
In November someone left a burning explosive, perhaps fireworks, in the street in front of the mosque. The FBI is investigating that case.
More than 100 volunteers came to support the mosque in the days that followed the November incident.
Mohamedali would like to see Mosqueteers appear at other places of worship where members feel threatened, no matter their religion.
”It’s very catchy. Maybe we should register it,” said Mohamedali.
Seemab Hussaini, from the Washington chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations, called the Mosqueteers an “amazing group” in an era where western Washington mosques have been burned and vandalized.
”The people that can mobilize to come out and protect us tend to have a lot more freedom and regularity to be able to express love, and that’s a beautiful expression of love,” said Hussaini. “It’s much more powerful and can come out of any moment, compared to hate where it comes out when it’s pent up.”