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Federal investigation urged

An organization that focuses on advocacy and civil rights for Muslims released a statement in response to a recent vandalism of the Islamic Center of Prince Edward County mosque.

The recent news release from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged law enforcement on the state and federal levels to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

Vandalism on the mosque, discovered Sept. 27, contained graffiti with a four-letter expletive starting with the letter “F,” followed by “God & Allah.”

The graffiti also had the letters “IC” with a circle around the letters and two shapes drawn on opposite sides of the circle.

The vandalism, which has since been painted over, is continuing to be investigated by the Farmville Police Department. Police said Tuesday no new developments have taken place as a result of the investigation.

Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, said instances of criminal activity targeting Muslims and different minority groups have risen dramatically, citing the current political climate, and urged local, state and federal law enforcement to intervene.

“Unfortunately, this is, I think, just symptomatic of the overall rise in anti-Muslim bigotry in our society,” Hooper said. “We’ve seen dozens of mosques targeted in recent months, and this is an unprecedented increase in such a short period of time.”

“We’ve issued a number of statements against hate attacks on African-Americans, Sikhs, Hispanics — you name it — it’s not just the American Muslim community that’s being targeted,” Hooper said.

He noted that even if perpetrators are young people, they can still be influenced by and carry out instances of hate and racism.

“Whether it’s teenagers just out drinking or something like that, you’re still targeting a house of worship with hate graffiti,” Hooper said.

Khalil Latif

Islamic Center of Prince Edward County Imam Khalil Latif said he and representatives of CAIR have not contacted one another, but said that upon the first hour of discovering the vandalism, he contacted Farmville police and reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

“I find that it was important to do those type of things if for no other reason than the databases for them to do some comparative investigation in cases if this has happened somewhere else in the state or somewhere else in the country,” Latif said. “Although the Islamic Center was defaced in this particular instance … I know that if you went and you did the research, you would probably find when it comes to destruction of churches and church burnings that have occurred in the commonwealth of Virginia over the last 10-15 years, you’d be shocked at what you will find out in regards to the numbers.”

He said that local law enforcement and community members have responded promptly and respectfully, with the town painting over the vandalism.

“It was because of the statistical aspects of it, because even if the federal government decided that they wanted to lend any assistance to the local law enforcement community, they could do that,” Latif said. “My notion was I did not do that not thinking that the local law enforcement wouldn’t be able to get it done.”

“It’s clear that our local authorities are way out ahead of this,” Latif said.