The mosque in Potsdam has no markings showing that it’s a place of worship. Tarik Ait Maathallah is the imam and says he was close to convincing other local Muslims to put up a sign, then came the 2019 attack on the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“When New Zealand happened, I had to rush to the police department to ask for some kind of presence because we didn’t know what was going to happen with copycats and what not; some people were utterly uncomfortable and wanted processes in place,” said Tarik Ait Maathallah, imam at the Potsdam masjid.
“I personally don’t think there’s a direct threat, but I don’t think it’s anything we can dismiss.”
In the aftermath, Maathallah says his faith community received an outpouring of support from neighbors. Some Potsdam residents even offered to act as human shields if the mosque was ever physically attacked. He’s grateful, however, he thinks this kind of attacks stem from not understanding the Muslim faith, one based on the individual’s relationship with a Creator God.
“It’s not different from any challenges that any other minority group face in this environment. And with everything else happening in, in our society, with the Black Lives Matter movement, and all that I think people are opening up their eyes and minds to these sensitive issues.
“And so we will patiently wait; we’re proud of being part of this community. Most families that live here, their children were born here. And so this is home for us. And sometimes, you just have to be patient and not rush into things.”