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Boynton mosque vandalized; Islamic group seeks hate crime probe

By Staff writer, For Palm Beach Post, On 02 November 2016, Read Original
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The entrance sign at the Al-Amin Center of Florida was spray-painted with graffiti containing anti-Islamic messages. Profanities referencing Islam and ISIS were painted on both sides of the sign.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a report of vandalism Wednesday morning, and that the act was captured on surveillance video. Officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida say that an unidentified person pulled a car into the Islamic Center’s parking lot shortly before 1 a.m. and parked near the sign.

CAIR officials say that federal law enforcement authorities were notified and they are calling for the case to be investigated as a hate crime.

“It’s not just painting anything. It is a hate message in a religious center,” CAIR spokesman Wilfredo Ruiz said Wednesday evening. “These are places particularly protected by our law to keep the worshippers safe and that’s why we want authorities to take a look at this and investigate as a hate crime.”

The mosque, located on Military Trail south of Hypoluxo Road, is the second in the area that has been the subject of an attack in recent months. In September, in the final hours of the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce was damaged by arson. St. Lucie County authorities arrested Joseph Michael Schreiber of Port St. Lucie. He faces a charge of arson and a hate-crime enhancement that could send him to prison for life. He also could face federal charges as the FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating.

“It is not an isolated incident,” Ruiz said while discussing Wednesday’s attack. “It needs to be taken very seriously. It is happening in the northern part of the state and the southern part of the state. The Gulf coast and Atlantic coast and the Orlando area. Unfortunately, our community is being held captive of (anti-Islamic) rhetoric.”

Several worshippers saw the graffiti as they arrived for morning prayers, Ruiz said.

“They are very worried,” he said. “There’s a sense of insecurity that these types of crimes infuse to all the community mainly because they are thinking, ‘What could be next?’ ”

On Wednesday evening, mosque leaders began to remove the graffiti. Residents from neighboring homes stopped by to express their support. Resident Sarah Mucha offered an apology before expressing anger.

“I’m appalled,” she said. “It’s very concerning about the state of our nation that people are coming and doing this type of thing. It’s abhorrent.”

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