Chicago Tribune: Islamic groups alarmed by suburban incidents
Two suburban Islamic institutions apparently were the targets of weekend incidents that caused property damage and raised concerns among Islamic leaders that the attacks were intended to harm worshippers.
On Monday, David Conrad, 51, of Morton Grove, was ordered in court to undergo an anger management evaluation and to stay away from members of the local Muslim Education Center, at which he is alleged to have fired a high-velocity air rifle Friday evening. No one was hurt during the shooting in the north suburb, but about 500 people were in the building observing evening prayers for the holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, police in west suburban Lombard were trying to determine the origin of a soda bottle filled with household chemicals that apparently was thrown at an Islamic school Sunday night, also during Ramadan prayers. The crude, homemade explosive scared worshippers because of its loud noise but did not injure anyone, Lombard police said.
Islamic community leaders called for federal authorities to step in, saying they do not consider either case isolated. They believe Muslims were targeted in the past because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“That was 11 years ago, and we are now seeing a sudden rise and more hate rhetoric,” Rehab said. “You even hear it from politicians and elected officials. Even though (they) might make a side note that most Muslims are good people, it creates a general atmosphere of hate, and some nut might go out and respond to it.”
In Cook County’s Skokie courthouse Monday, a judge set bond at $45,000 for Conrad, who lives next to the Morton Grove school and mosque. He is charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property, both felonies, and with misdemeanor possession of a firearm without a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. He posted bail late Monday and was released to his home, where he will be monitored electronically.
Prosecutors, neighbors and members of the mosque have said that Conrad had complained for years about noise, traffic and other concerns related to the institution at 8601 N. Menard Ave.
Authorities also said there is evidence of past incidents involving a similar weapon having been fired at the mosque but that they could not tie those to Conrad. They believed he fired the air rifle at the mosque and school Friday evening, narrowly missing a security guard.
Conrad, who works for a tree service company, serves on the village’s Natural Resources Commission, a village official confirmed. His lawyer called Conrad a longtime village volunteer and “pillar of the community.”
Judge Marguerite Quinn sternly warned Conrad not to go on mosque property or seek contact with any members.
“This is the holy month of Ramadan, and it will not be because of your actions that these services be disturbed. If you do, you will be sitting in the Cook County Jail,” the judge said.
In Lombard, worshippers praying at the College Preparatory School of America, 331 W. Madison St., reported hearing a loud bang outside the school about 11:30 p.m. They later found the bottle, which had been thrown at a window of the school but did not break, according to Lombard Deputy Chief Pat Rollins.
Rollins said the homemade acid bomb typically makes a loud sound but usually doesn’t cause a fire.
Religious leaders responded quickly to the news of both incidents, which came days after the fatal shootings at a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple by a man authorities said had white supremacist ties.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago said in a statement that leaders are “appalled at the increasing attacks on Muslim institutions.”
Lombard police are asking anyone with information about the school incident to call them at 630-873-4400.
Tribune reporter Lisa Black contributed.