Orland Park Mosque Plans Active Shooter Drill To Make Muslim Communities Feel Safer

Bernie Tafoya
March 22, 2019 - 3:48 pm

The Prayer Center in Orland Park, the mosque where the active shooter drill will take place tomorrow afternoon. (Bernie Tafoya/WBBM)

Categories: 

ORLAND PARK (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- On the heels of last week’s mosque massacre in New Zealand, a southwest suburban mosque plans an active shooter drill Saturday afternoon. 

Imam Kifah Mustapha of the Prayer Center of Orland Park said the three-hour active shooter program at the mosque will be sponsored by the Arab American Police Association.

"It comes down to making people more aware of how to handle things like (the mass shooting in New Zealand)," Mustapha said. "It takes only one incident for a massacre to happen, an event we hope no places of worship would have to deal with, at all."

Mustapha grew up in Lebanon during a civil war in which car bombings of churches and mosques were common. He did not expect to have to worry about violence at places of worship here in the United States.

"Coming to the States is coming to the land of freedom and justice and equality," he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is encouraging all 100 or so Chicago area mosques to do similar active shooter drills and evaluate their security. Deputy Director Sufyan Sohel said you can never over-prepeare for tragic situations like last week's.

 "We just want to make sure that our communities know how to prepare in case such situations arise at their mosques," Sohel said. "Unfortunately... there’s a heightened fear since the New Zealand attack that the community and our centers of worship will be under attack and they just want to take these steps to make sure that they’re all safe."

In Orland Park, Mustapha said the active shooter drill is not the only thing being done to make worshippers feel safer. Cameras are being installed and, "we are locking our doors in the night, five doors. We have very early prayers also. We’re locking doors except for the main door." 

"The security is now an employee who is always available at the time of the prayer," he said, adding that volunteers will rotate shifts during prayers to be watchful. 

The imam said this will be the first active shooter drill in a mosque in the Chicago area. He said it's very much worth doing because The Prayer Center is such an active place, especially in the afternoon when there are activities for young people. He also said the mosque employes 80 full and part-time workers.

These are some of the security procedures CAIR has suggests mosques follow:

• Build relationships with the local community of the mosque (ie, local government officials, law enforcement, religious and community groups, neighbors, etc.). Invite them to visit, attend events, and be active partners. Maintain regular contact, address congregational concerns, and engage in broader community.

• Reach out to your local police department to visit your center, assess current security protocols, and to make suggestions on improving mosque security.

• Request additional police patrols in the vicinity of your center. Special focus should be made during times of prayer, community activities & programs, and nighttime.

• Consider hiring private security.

• Post mosque members at entrances and parking areas during prayer times. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity and persons. Report them to authorities.

• Report suspicious packages to police. Do not touch them.

If you haven't already, install:

• bright floodlights outside the mosque

• alarm systems and security cameras

• secure, solid doors at all entrances

• compliant burglarproof bars on windows, screens, and large vents

• Have safety protocols (fire, bomb threat, active shooter, etc.) in place. Train mosque leadership and educate congregants.