Hate crime probe urged by human rights activists for vandalism of Philadelphia mosque
Following the vandalism of a mosque in Philadelphia, human rights advocates are urging law enforcement to investigate the incident as a "hate crime".
The vandalism, which camera footage shows occurred late Friday night, according to local reports, was discovered Monday morning by members of the mosque, Masjidullah – The Center for Human Excellence, and then reported to the police.
On Monday night, a man was reportedly arrested in connection with the incident, though little information about him has been released.
Written with paint on an outside wall of the mosque were the words "Jesus Christ" along with a star of David with an X drawn through it.
"The motive of this individual seems to be that he is misguided by fanaticism," Ahmet Tekelioglu, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Philadelphia, told The New Arab. "We hope the person who did this knows what he did, and that love for Jesus is not limited to Christians."
In a public statement, CAIR-Philadelphia President Mohammed Zubairu, who is also a member of Masjidullah, said, "We condemn this act of vandalism and urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to apprehend the perpetrator and to determine whether there was a bias motive for the incident. All Americans should feel safe from harassment or intimidation at their houses of worship."
He also emphasised the importance of mosques taking extra precaution, suggesting mosques refer to a safety booklet by CAIR called, "Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety."
The incident was quickly met with support from other faith communities in the area. A joint statement by a synagogue and a church, Congregation Rodeph Shalom and the Perfecting Church, reported by local news, said they were "appalled and saddened" by what had happened.
"As three distinct faith communities who work together for common understanding, we stand together once again in the face of bigotry and hate," they said. "Each of our traditions call us to love and know one another."
They continued, "Together we pray for a time when peace and understanding will fill and encompass our entire Philadelphia region. And until that time, we will continue to work together to bring God’s greatest gift of peace to our city and our world."
The three faith communities regularly host joint events, including upcoming gatherings next month to educate people about Passover, Holy Week and Easter, and Ramadan.
The building that now houses Masjidullah has a long history of being the home of different faiths. It was first opened as a synagogue in 1947, then used as a church starting in the 1970s, and 10 years ago it became home to the present-day mosque. Masjidullah has kept Jewish and Christian symbols etched in the building from its previous owners.