Police boost presence after Columbia Islamic center receives threat, possible reference to New Zealand attack

An Islamic center in Columbia is receiving extra police protection after someone posted on Facebook that “maybe you’ll be next,” a possible reference to the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand one week ago, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

Howard County Police are investigating the posting on the Maryum Islamic Center’s Facebook page as a hate/bias incident, said Seth Hoffman, a spokesman for the department. Police increased their presence during Friday night prayers at the center, he said, and will do so again at the group’s annual fundraising dinner Saturday at Oakland Mills High School.

A Facebook announcement of the dinner drew this response, according to the center and CAIR: “You know the only thing you don’t want us to do is really show up right. And here’s what I say I got your address now mother*****s maybe you’ll be next.”

Patti Blades, a trustee of the Maryum center, shared a screenshot of the comment, which was posted in two parts on Thursday and has since been taken down. She said the poster could have been someone just spouting off “out of ignorance,” or it could be someone who planned to act, so the center decided to contact police.

“It’s not our place to judge,” she said. “But it’s definitely disturbing.”

Hoffman said the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at two mosques, prompted police to keep a closer eye on local Muslim centers.

“Police are continuing to increase presence around mosques and other Muslim facilities following the attack in New Zealand last week in an abundance of caution,” he said.

In a statement, Zainab Chaudry, CAIR’s director of Maryland outreach, thanked Howard County officials and police for “their steadfast support and commitment to safety for all of the county’s residents.

“Even as we take extra security precautions, we will not be intimidated,” she said. “We encourage the community to attend tomorrow evening’s event to support Maryum Islamic Center and to demonstrate that hate can never succeed in achieving its evil goals.”

On Friday, CAIR distributed a video of a webinar it held on Thursday with Department of Homeland Security experts to discuss resources available to mitigate the risks of attacks. About 100 mosques, schools and other community organizations participated in the webinar, CAIR said.

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