WATERLOO — The local Muslim community is on edge after vandals spray-painted presidential candidate Donald Trump’s name on the on the Masjid Al-Noor Islamic Center.
The head of the center has called the discovery an attack on religious freedom and major setback for Muslims in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.
Meanwhile, the Iowa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the vandalism as a possible hate crime.
The incident was reported to Waterloo police Friday night after children planting trees around Masjid Al-Noor, 2110 Sager Ave., found the graffiti. “Trump” was written on the north side of the building with red paint.
Waterloo police had no suspects Saturday afternoon but were giving extra attention to the area.
A statement issued by Dema Kazkaz, president of the Islamic Center, said the incident “sent shock waves around our community.”
“Several of us are considering pulling our children out of Sunday school and other activities geared towards enriching and nurturing religious education,” Kazkaz said. “Freedom of religion is officially under attack.
“Over the past few years, we had made much progress within the greater community through interfaith activities meant to promote a better understanding of our religion,” she added. “Tonight, we fear we’ve taken several steps backwards. Many amongst us are wondering whether this is the beginning of even worse things to come.”
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Kazkaz urged the community to keep moving forward on a path to interfaith peace and asked for cooperation to help authorities bring the perpetrators to justice.
A group of concerned residents who heard about he vandalism showed up Saturday afternoon and removed the graffiti. A member of the group said there was nothing political about their effort.
Curtis DeGroote, a Trump supporter, said he also showed up with plans to help clean up the vandalism but found the work was done.
“We know that’s not a Trump supporter that would do that,” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Iowa chapter, based in Cedar Rapids, issued a statement suggesting the vandalism could be a hate crime.
Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has promoted anti-Muslim policies and has made a number of Islamophobic statements during his campaign, CAIR said. The situation has led to a rise in hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions and American Muslims.
A similar incident was reported Friday in Bayonne, N.J., were Muslims arriving at their temporary place of worship found graffiti spray-painted on walls. The messages included “F*** Arabs,” “Jesus Christ” and “Donald Trump.”