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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2007

Leaders gather to support Sylvania mosque

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Sylvania Police Chief Gerald Sobb, and other community leaders voiced their support last night for a mosque in Sylvania whose high school was vandalized two days earlier.

"We wrap our arms around you today," Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo), said.

She praised members of Masjid Saad for "turning outward" instead of inward, and hosting a free dinner for the community last night.

Chief Sobb said his department is working with the FBI to catch the perpetrators of "this senseless and stupid crime."

Sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Thursday, vandals spray-painted swastikas and shot out windows at the Toledo Islamic Academy, a high school on the grounds of the mosque. Vandals also spray-painted a "white power" slogan on a truck.

Masjid Saad moved in July from its Secor Road facility into the former Cathedral of Praise building on West Alexis Road, which it bought for $2.7 million. The high school moved to the new site a month earlier.

Members of the mosque are holding services in the new building although an official grand opening is planned next month.

Last night, representatives of Muslim, Christian, civic, and law-enforcement groups stood together inside the mosque in stocking feet, as is Muslim custom, to decry the vandalism, call for justice, and urge better understanding among religious and cultural groups.

Aalaa Eldeib, principal of the school, said "our hearts sank" when teachers and students arrived at the school Thursday morning and saw the damage, but the response of the community has yielded "Signs of hope and unity, coming together against hatred and intolerance."

FBI agent Dave Dustin said he is working closely with Sylvania police to find the vandals and bring them to justice.

The speeches were interrupted briefly for a Muslim call to prayer. Muslims are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, when they fast and abstain from sensual pleasures from dawn to dusk.



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