Last month, a gunman killed 50 people and injured 50 others at a mosque and Islamic center in New Zealand. In response to that and other recent attacks, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a roundtable on how to protect houses of worship from domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
The event is being held at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center on Monday evening.
Ahmed Ali, Somali Outreach Coordinator at the Prosecutor's Office, says that last month’s attack raised concerns in Columbus’s from Islamic faith leaders about attacks.
“A lot of overall other safety concerns have come up about even, ‘Are there any funding for getting more security equipment inside the mosques or having risk assessments done?’” Ali says.
And while shootings are a concern no matter the place, houses of worship may need special attention because, as Ali says, they are “soft targets.”
“If you’re going to a school building or other business places, sometimes they have a lot of security checkpoints and accesses, whereas the house of worship is usually open and people can just come in," Ali says. "So sometimes it can get a little tricky when it comes to security.”
Representatives from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will also be at Monday’s event. Ahmed says he hopes the event can help ease faith communities’ worries and get them thinking about critical questions.
“If something were to happen in your house of worship, how would you respond to that, who is trained internally?" Ali says. "Maybe even having a key security person within the house of worship to be able to liaison and take trainings.”