Members of an Islamic Center in Louisville, Kentucky, made a disturbing discovery when they arrived for prayer services on Wednesday night. Vandals had spray-painted graffiti on the building's exterior with messages like "this is for France" and "Moslems leave the Jews alone," according to The Associated Press.
Center spokesman Muhammad Babar said he filed a police report and has spoken to the FBI about the incident.
"Whoever did this, we will pray for him, and we have forgiven him," Babar told The Courier-Journal on Wednesday. "And if that person is meaning to send us a message to leave, America is our country and our adopted homeland. ... We're not going anywhere."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and local interfaith leaders held a press conference on Thursday to denounce the vandalism.
"An act like this here last night is an affront to everyone in our community," the mayor said. "It is not just an act against one faith, the Muslim faith. It's an act against Buddhists, Christians, Jews -- all faiths. An act like this will not be tolerated in our community. Certainly from a moral standpoint, but also from a legal standpoint."
Fischer urged the community to help the center paint over the graffiti during a clean-up planned for 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Matt Goldberg, director of the Louisville Jewish Community Relations Council, stood beside Babar at Thursday's press conference, and pledged his support to the center.
"This will bring us closer together," Goldberg said. "So my message is to the perpetrator: We win and you lose.”
The Anti-Defamation League, an international organization that fights anti-Semitism, released a statement of solidarity with the Muslim community on Thursday. Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL national director, and Anita Gray, director of the ADL's local chapter, wrote:
As Americans and as Jews, we are outraged and saddened by this attack. We hope that law enforcement will apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous act and that they will be appropriately prosecuted. Those who attack houses of worship strike at the very heart of American freedom.
The fact that Hebrew, the Star of David, and other Jewish references were painted on the mosque is particularly disturbing. While we do yet know the identity of the perpetrators, we unequivocally condemn this cowardly act of hatred. An attack on any house of worship is an attack on all who value religious freedom.
Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad told reporters Thursday that the FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
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