The robbery took place on Monday, August 5. One man entered the Mosque, located at 5218 Third Avenue, during the time of Fajr prayer, which is around 4:45 a.m. At the time, there were about 15 congregants inside the masjid. The man joined the other men in prayer. Halfway into the salat, surveillance video obtained by Bklyner shows the man stepping away and walking downstairs, while the other men are still praying.
If anyone did notice during the prayer that a man left, it was not something to be scared about. After all, it’s normal; people often leave prayer to use the bathroom or when they realize they forgot to make wudu. After the prayer was over, the last person looked around the masjid, shut the lights off, and closed the gates, not realizing that there was a man downstairs.
At around 7 a.m., the side door was unlocked for the office downstairs, as it is done every single day. Once it was unlocked, another man entered the masjid and headed downstairs. It is downstairs where the safe is located. They broke into the safe, took approximately $2,000 and left. Nobody noticed the money was missing until yesterday, August 6.
The NYPD confirms that two men entered the location and removed the cash from the donation box. Cops say that tools were used to break the latch. As of today, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
The Muslim Community Center has had a busy week. There were events happening inside the masjid almost every day, ranging from Zoo Day to Ice Cream Party Night. The safe is usually cleared every Thursday, right before Jummah prayer so the money could be accounted for. Yesterday, the co-founder of Muslims Giving Back (MGB), Mohamed Bahe, was about to leave the masjid at around 10:30 p.m. He realized that he needed to go to the safe and take out about $50 to purchase some supplies. Once he went downstairs and opened the safe, everything fell apart. There was nothing there.
“Honestly, it was very disappointing. The last thing you need is something like that, especially if we really give back to the community,” Bahe told Bklyner. “It kind of hurts that they went after our only source of revenue. That is what keeps us going. That is what gives us the ability to give back. So if someone attacks that, it takes a huge hit in our service.”
Every Friday and Saturday (for five years now), the mosque holds a food pantry and then goes out to feed the homeless. Other projects by MGB include Asiyah Women’s Center and making a free bakery in Yemen. Just a few weeks ago, Bahe and members of MGB delivered 40 brand new air conditioners to Syrian refugee families in Connecticut and New Jersey.
According to Bahe, it is not just the masjid that was affected by the robbery, but also the neighbors, the community, and the recipients of masjid’s programs.
“It really does suck. I just wish they did it the right way,” he said. “They could’ve just came to us and said, ‘Listen, whatever financial situation we’re in, can we get some help?’ We always help people.”
Muslim Community Patrol & Services, which patrols areas such as Sunset Park, told Bklyner, “It’s very unfortunate that such an incident took place and it’s all the reason more for a community patrol like MCPS to be around as an extra set of eyes and ears.”
“For us as MCPS, we will take extra measures to ensure the safety of our houses of worships and increase patrol in these areas at later hours.”
Currently, Bahe has begun a small campaign to get the money back. The money was supposed to be used on Eid to help people. Donations will also be used to purchase a new donation box and key. To donate, you can visit the GoFundMe page here. Despite the loss, Bahe and the masjid community forgives the two men.
“These guys stole from us, but we still have a lot to be thankful for. It could’ve gone a lot worse… this could’ve been a bigger disaster. So thank God, God protected us from making it something huge,” Bahe said. “In the end, they’re human beings. And human beings make mistakes. For me, forgiveness is a big thing. If we pass it down to people, maybe we will be fortunate enough to receive mercy from God.”