It took less than 24 hours for a mosque in Colorado to raise about $22,000 to improve security and repair property after a man threw rocks and a Bible through its glass doors.
The money was part of the local community’s swift response to the vandalism at the Islamic Center of Fort Collins. Congregants of a nearby Christian church left their worship service early on Sunday to express their condolences, and about 1,000 people rallied outside the mosque later that day with signs expressing love and interfaith solidarity.
“It was a great showing and reminder to me to what the people of Fort Collins are to us and what we are to them,” Shakir Muhammad, executive committee member at the Islamic center, told The Huffington Post. The rally, he said, showed that something “good” can come out of one “hateful person’s actions.”
Surveillance footage from about 4 a.m. Sunday shows a man in a hooded sweatshirt unsuccessfully attempting to break into the Islamic center. He can then be seen throwing cinderblocks against the mosque’s glass doors, shattering them, before tossing rocks and a Bible into the prayer room.
“It’s a very unfortunate time,” mosque president Towfik Aboellail said, according to local outlet KUSA. “I had a feeling this would happen. What if one of our people was praying and that rock hit?”
Fort Collins police are investigating the incident. A spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether the department is ruling it a hate crime.
“We will let the facts determine the course of the investigation,” Dustin Weir told CNN.
But for Muhammad, and many others in Fort Collins, there’s no question that this act was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. The use of the Bible in particular, Muhammad said, “signified it was a hate crime.”
It’s like the action of any “terrorist,” he said, which involves using religion ― whether in the form of a “verse from the Quran or the Bible” ― to justify violence.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on federal and local authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“Because of the use of a Bible in the vandalism, we would urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the possibility of a bias motive for this attack on a house of worship,” he said in a statement.
Hate crimes rose 7 percent in the U.S. in 2015, according to the latest available FBI data, a rise driven by a 67 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims.
And according to a report from CAIR, mosques were targeted for vandalism, arson and other types of destruction at least 80 times in 2015 ― a 400 percent increase from the year before.
CAIR and other groups have raised alarm over what they say is an increase in hate crimes since the election of President Donald Trump in November.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked over 1,000 hate-related incidents in the month after Trump’s Nov. 8 election victory, a surge the organization attributed to the president’s hateful campaign rhetoric. Another SPLC report found that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the U.S. tripled in 2016.
Less than four months into 2017, CAIR has already tracked 33 times mosques have been targeted for vandalism. In one seven-week period this year, four mosques across the country caught on fire. Authorities ruled the cause of three of those fires to be arson, while the cause of the fourth is still unknown.
Earlier this month in Arizona, a man broke into the Islamic Center of Tucson and tore up over 100 copies of the Quran. And in New Mexico, a couple was accused of urinating on a Quran at a Santa Fe library.
Twice in one week this month, men allegedly threatened to shoot Muslim women in public.
“Every day, we receive more reports of hate incidents, threats and violence targeting American Muslims, Islamic institutions and even those perceived to be Muslim, yet we hear only a deafening silence from the Trump administration,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement last week. “President Trump must speak out against the growing Islamophobia in our nation for which he bears substantial blame.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Awad’s statement.