Macon mosque vandalism highlights national anti-Muslim attacks

Bibb County deputies are investigating vandalism reported at a Macon mosque.

Deputies were called to The Islamic Center of Macon, 2131 Vineville Ave., at about 3 p.m. Saturday, according to a sheriff's office incident report. When the deputy arrived, they met with a member of the mosque who showed the officer graffiti written on the back of the building and on several windows.

The marking included the words "Terrorist" and profanity, the report states.

The member of the mosque told the deputy that after a group of members left the building Friday at about 8 p.m., the graffiti was not there. When they arrived Saturday at 6 a.m. they noticed the markings, the report states.

The graffiti was cleaned up by Tuesday morning. But out front stood Rebecca Lanning, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Macon. She was holding a sign that says, "Pursue Peace."

"Macon is better than this," she said adding that members of the mosque "deserve respect."

Investigators are looking at the mosque's security cameras, the incident report states.

The vandalism here is emblematic of anti-Muslim attacks around the U.S.

Anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise since the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., and recent comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump could make the situation worse, Muslim and Arab-American leaders say.

The attacks range from a pig's head thrown at a mosque to a shop owner who was beaten.

Recent vandalism and threats at mosques represent a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has asked American Muslims to report incidents of bias.

"We don't literally have time to issue a statement on every incident because they're coming in so fast and furious," Hooper said. "When the leading Republican presidential candidate can say, 'Bar all Muslims coming to America' and know he can get more support for it — it is truly frightening."

The Anti-Defamation League has reports of about two dozen anti-Muslim attacks since the terror attacks Nov. 13 in Paris, ranging from a cabdriver shot in Pittsburgh to vandalism against mosques and other buildings, plus verbal or written threats.

"We're definitely seeing anti-Muslim bigotry escalating around the country," said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

Trump called Monday for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." The ban should last "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" with regard to the attitudes of Muslims toward Americans and terrorism, according to a statement issued by the Trump campaign. Tuesday, the candidate said his plan has "tremendous support" by his followers, despite condemnation from Republicans, Democrats and world leaders.

Trump's words came as Philadelphia police and the FBI investigated who left a severed pig's head at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society mosque. Surveillance camera video shows the object was tossed from a passenger window of a pickup early Sunday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

There have been other incidents and developments too:

 

  • In Austin, two young Arab-American women reported they were verbally assaulted at a restaurant Sunday morning by another patron. Leilah Abdennabi, a Palestinian American born in Chicago, and Sirat Al-Nahi, an Iraqi American born in Seattle, who both wear Muslim head scarfs, said an older man at Kerbey Lane Cafe shouted they "should just go back to Saudi Arabia." The restaurant moved the patron but did not make him leave, the women told Fox 7 TV.

 

 

  • Sarker Haque, who owns Fatima Food Mart in Queens in New York reported he was beaten Saturday by a customer who promised to "kill Muslims." Haque was bleeding and bruised and had a dislocated hand. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital for treatment, according to NY1-TV. Police charged Piro Kolvani, 55, of Jacksonville, with assault and criminal mischief in connection with the incident.

 

 

  • At the Islamic Center of Greater St. Louis, someone claiming to be a former Marine left a threatening voicemail Saturday. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime, Fox 2 TV in St. Louis reported.

 

 

  • In Palm Beach, Fla., someone broke windows in a prayer room at the Islamic Center. Police arrested Joshua Killets, 27, on Friday in connection with the incident. He faces charges that include criminal mischief to a religious structure, according to WSVN-TV.

 

 

  • The Manassas Mosque in Virginia Manassas, Va., received a voicemail threat Dec. 2, the night of the San Bernardino attacks that left 14 people fatally shot by a married Muslim couple who the FBI says were "radicalized." A caller claiming to represent the Jewish Defense League referred to the California shooting and promised to "do to your people what you did to them," according to a CAIR report.

 

 

  • The Tempe, Ariz., police department received a report of unspecified damage in the last week.

 

 

  • In Grand Forks, N.D., community members believe the deliberate Tuesday morning torching of a restaurant serving Somali food was a hate crime.

 

 

  • ​The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said it received complaints from three airline passengers pulled off planes since Dec. 2. Multiple death threats and other abusive comments have been directed at the group from phone callers, said Abed Ayoub, the committee's national legal and policy director.

 

Ayoub said all such incidents are reported to the FBI, noting the committee's office in Santa Anna, Calif., was bombed in 1985, killing regional director Alex Odeh, "so we have to take these seriously."

Ayoub and Hooper said the spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents began after the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. said the wave of bias is similar to what happened after the 9/11 terror attacks, at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, but it happens more online and on social media, Ayoub said.

Hooper worried that Trump's recent comments will stir even greater backlash against Muslims, but Ayoub said Trump has also sparked support for his group and Muslims.

"We have received a lot of outreach from our community partners, the Jewish, Christian and Hispanic community. More than in the past," Ayoub said.

The group received letters from many attorneys from across the country from different backgrounds, including Jews, who want to volunteer to counter Donald Trump, he said.


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