FBI probes vandalism at North Dakota Muslim cemetery
The FBI is investigating the severe vandalism of a Muslim cemetery in the US state of North Dakota earlier this month, as the local community tries to repair the damage and understand the cause of the crime.
The vandalism was discovered shortly before a funeral and reportedly occurred around 21 October, according to local news reports. The damage was extensive, with concrete vaults for burials destroyed.
"This wasn't simple vandalism. This was targeted. They knew what those things were. It's one of those things where they wanted to cause harm," Jaylani Hussein, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota, told The New Arab.
North Dakota's Muslim community is small but historic. The state has the oldest mosque in the US, a small structure that sits on a remote prairie and was established by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in the 1920s.
These days, a growing number of Muslims in North Dakota come from Somalia.
North Dakota's neighbour to the east, Minnesota, is home to a sizeable Somali community. There, anti-Muslim attacks reached an all-time high this year.
CAIR's Hussein told The New Arab that the cemetery vandalism is not the first such incident to have occurred recently in North Dakota.
"We had an active militia group that targeted a mosque in Moorhead," Hussein said. "That was about a year ago."
There have been no comments from the state's elected officials on the cemetery vandalism incident, he said.
In response to the recent vandalism, the Islamic Society of Fargo Moorhead is hosting an open house "to showcase Islam and its values" it said in a public statement, which will be held on 5 November.
"We invite you to meet your Muslim neighbours, tour the mosque, attend a talk with a special guest speaker and learn more about Islam," the statement read.
The group has organised a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for new vaults and improved security. So far, they have raised just over $6,000 of their $50,000 goal.