ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA)– Just one week after a pair of Muslim radicals shot 14 people dead in San Bernardino, the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg is scrutinizing its security measures, repairing door alarms and increasing patrol outside their Sunday school classes for kids.
“Somebody is always outside, paying attention, looking around, making sure that we don’t have strange vehicles and strange people walking around,” said Hatim Jaber of the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg.
Recent terror attacks have sparked a rise in anti-Islamic sentiment across the country, a flame that was further fanned by Donald Trump’s recent comments, stating he would temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
“You can tell it’s a little more aggressive. I have seen it when I walk in a store, I get a second look. You feel like they are keeping an eye on you or that they are worried that you are going to do something to them,” said Jaber.
“It’s concerning that there is this growing community that believes they can be bigoted and xenophobic and violent towards the community,” said Laila Abdelaziz of CAIR Florida.
Those at the mosque know the threat of violence well.
On November 14th, the mosque received a threatening voicemail from Pinellas County resident Martin Schnitzler.
“I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head. I don’t care if they’re (expletive) 2 years old or 100,” said Schnitzler in a voicemail.
That event, combined with last week’s attack in California, prompted the society to apply for a grant through the Department of Homeland Security.
“This provides mosques with the opportunity to upgrade their monitoring systems and even install security windows and security doors and it gives them the training and the tools that they need if there ever was a violent situation in their mosque,” said Abdelaziz.
The grant will be up to $75,000, based on the need of the mosque facility.