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Services at Islamic center in West Chester continue after threat

The West Chester Police Department will continue to investigate a letter containing white powder and a threat mailed to the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.

And as police investigate the threat, Islamic center officials say they are open for all services.

“We, at the Center, are deeply appreciative of the work of law enforcement personnel, fire department, the HAZMAT team, and West Chester Twp,” according to a statement issued by the Islamic center. “We regret that the mosque was not available for afternoon services because of their situation and want our congregants to know that all remaining services will proceed as scheduled.”

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The letter arrived in the mail at around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to township officials. The West Chester Twp. Hazmat Team as well as police and fire crews responded to the scene.

“We are disappointed that some individual(s) would to resort intimidation and harassment of a place of worship,” according to the statement. “This runs counter to each and every American value. At the same time we are appreciative of the many individuals and institutions in the community who have expressed their support. We remain committed to our mission of community outreach and promoting interfaith understanding and harmony among Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds.”

West Chester Fire Chief Rick Prinz said the white, powdery substance was tested on Tuesday.

“What we sampled was non-hazardous,” he said.

Police will continue to investigate the threat made in the letter, according to West Chester Police Capt. Jamie Hensley. The FBI will assist if needed, he said.

Hensley declined to give more details about what was said in the letter or its postmark because “that could be pertinent to the investigation.”

Dr. Inayat Malik, who is on the board of trustees at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, said in addition to regular services, there was a basketball camp for children Tuesday at the center.

“It is disturbing that something like this happened,” he said. “When you get a suspicious package and a threat, it’s unnerving.”

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While the building was not evacuated, the children in the camp were moved to another location of the campus, he said.

“You try to be as reassuring as you can, because they don’t understand what’s going on in the real world,” he said of the children. “There may be people that are evil, that want to do harm, people that are bigoted. We try to shield the children as much as we can but provide them accurate information. We don’t want them to withdraw totally into a shell. They’re part of American youth. They’re part of this landscape, and we want them to play … and grow up to be productive American citizens. And yet at the same time we don’t want them to feel threatened or insecure.”

MORE: Five things to know about the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati

For the past year, he said, many parents have been having such conversations with their children due to the country’s “political climate.”

“That’s been an ongoing conversation,” he said.

The center has had several threats recently.

“None of them, thankfully, have panned out,” Malik said. “We’re also very thankful and grateful to God that this also turned out to be a false alarm.”

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