Muslim prayer on subway prompts police alert - Heavily armed response

Two Muslims’ prayer on a Boston-area railway platform prompted other riders to dial 911 to report suspicious activity, officials said. Transit police officers armed with long rifles rushed to the Wellington T station in Medford, Mass., Thursday morning after the “general misunderstanding,” Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager Frank DePaola told the Boston Herald.

The 7:45 a.m. police call displayed the “heightened sensitivity on everybody’s part” following the Orlando nightclub massacre, and MBTA officials hope it was “resolved in a very gentle manner,” DePaola said.

“Some people riding our system noticed two people that appeared to be Middle Eastern, and in their opinion, they were acting suspicious,” he told the Herald. “We responded because we got the call. It turns out that they were two citizens lawfully — as I understand it, they may have been praying, because it’s Ramadan.”

The investigation caused minor delays for the station’s Orange Line trains in the city about 3 miles northwest of downtown Boston. The T’s official Twitter account announced the delays around 8:20 a.m. then noted regular service had resumed an hour later.

A photo posted to Twitter showed morning commuters stuck at the crowded station and checking their cellphones for updates.

“Hope your morning commute is better than suspicious packages!” the user who posted the photo said.

Investigators have said the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, was a Muslim who pledged allegiance to Islamic State terrorists. The involvement of radicalized Muslims in mass shootings such as those in San Bernardino, Calif., and at Fort Hood in Texas has turned the religion into a tense political issue touching off confrontations on planes and even in ice cream stores.

Transit police Superintendent Richard Sullivan told the Herald the investigation had been a “non-event” and that the officers showed up with the arms they’ve carried with them “for years.”

Yet representatives for the Muslim civil rights organization the Council on American-Islamic Relations said they would be reviewing the incident and speaking with the transit agency.

“It’s really up to the person who makes the initial report to make a report based on actual evidence and an actual suspicion and not on prejudice and stereotyping,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told the Herald. “Too often what we see is that somebody praying or somebody wearing Islamic attire is enough to trigger this kind of response.”


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