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Police offer safety patrols to mosque following Wisconsin shooting

The mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin Sunday has made Harford County's Muslims concerned for their safety.

Although the Sikh religion is completely separate from Islam, local Muslims worry that people do not distinguish between Muslims and Sikhs, and they are seeking more security around Masjid Al-Falaah, the mosque in Abingdon.

The mosque's president, Rehan Khan, said the Harford County Sheriff's Office has agreed to provide some type of security for the congregation, although he did not know if it would be area patrols or an actual deputy on-site.

Earlier this week, Khan issued a statement condemning the Wisconsin attack, in which an alleged white supremacist killed six people during a religious service Sunday at the temple.

"It's horrifying whenever a place of worship is attacked in this brutal way. I don't have stronger words to condemn it," Khan said Thursday.

"Most of the attacks on the Sikhs have been mistaken for Muslims and that is why the Muslim community is afraid that this might happen to them," he continued. "We do need to take safety measures and we do need the state and local authorities to take adequate measures to protect our places of worship."

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan under way, the community is especially worried about safety during high-profile events.

"It's such a small minority and we have only one house of worship," Khan said. "We are just afraid of the copy cats."

He said there have "absolutely" been no specific threats against the Harford Muslim community and he does not feel threatened by anything specific in the county.

"On the contrary, we have received words of support from the neighboring churches, which is very encouraging," he said. "We have very good relations with people of other faiths. We have visited other churches and we have received very kind and accommodating words from our neighbors."

Khan said the congregation has had a "very positive experience" in Harford County and also attended a memorial service for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year at a Quaker church.

"We are very sure that this area is very peaceful and we do not expect that [kind of attack]," he said.

The congregation on Philadelphia Road has only had its own building for about a year. Before that, the Muslim community met off of Laurel Bush Road in Bel Air.

Khan said the police presence should reassure those attending the mosque.

"People are continuing their normal Ramadan activities," he said.

He hopes understanding can continue to improve between people of different faiths and those of minority religions will not have to be afraid.

"I always look at things in the most positive manner, and we can use this event to educate people about the differences in religion and the common factors that bind us all as human beings, and to be kind and courteous to others and discuss our differences in more humane ways," he said.

"We are very hopeful and very thankful to our neighbors," he said.

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