West End Vandalism Not a Hate Crime

Eric J. Kos The building at the corner of Ninth Street and Santa Clara had its windows broken out in a possible attack on the Islamic Center whose sign marks the building. In actuality, the Islamic Center hasn’t been using the building, which sits across the street from the active center, and the space remains vacant.

Vacant building’s ties to Islamic Center raises eyebrows

The Alameda Police Department (APD) is treating a shattered plate-glass window at a vacant building on the 800 block of Santa Clara Avenue as vandalism. Although the building is not currently in use, the sign above the entrance near the broken window reads “Islamic Center of Alameda Community Center.”

The Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernadino by Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, has put authorities on heightened alert. The attack on a social center there killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. This raises the question whether APD could view this a simple act of vandalism as a hate crime. 

APD Lt. Jill Ottaviano said that members of the Islamic Center on Santa Clara Avenue across Ninth Street from the disused community center have not used that facility for at least eight months. She wondered why the landlord hasn’t taken down the sign. 

Ottaviano said APD has spoken with members of the Islamic Center. They told police that they did not think anyone targeted the building out of hate. Ottaviano also pointed out that APD saw no evidence of anyone entering the building where the glass was broken.

“This leads us to believe that this was nothing more than some kids thowing a rock through a plate-glass window,” Ottaviano said. 

The Islamic Center got its start in 1996, when members of Alameda’s Muslim community started a madrassa, an Islamic religious school, at the Afghani Cultural Center, today’s Al Quba Masjid, on Haight Avenue. 

According to the Islamic Center’s website, the madrassa moved first to a private home, then to a 300-square-foot office space on Lincoln Avenue and Sherman Street. When parents expressed a strong desire for a central place not only for a madrassa but for a place for worship and other Islamic activities, the idea for the Islamic Center was born. The center opened at its present location in 1998, with daily Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan. 

In addition to being open for prayers five times a day, the center provides many different services to the Muslim community, including social services, weekday and Sunday Islamic school programs and academic touth tutoring.