A non-profit Muslim school in Rhode Island was vandalized with Islamophobic graffiti on Saturday, one day after holding a vigil for the three Muslim victims of the North Carolina shooting. The story garnered national interest after the Providence Journal posted a photo of the graffiti on Sunday.
The Islamic School of Rhode Island — which opened in 2003 as the first Muslim school in the state — had never been targeted by vandalization or serious threats before, the President of the school’s board of trustees told the Providence Journal.
However, the orange graffiti covering the school’s doors left little doubt about the intentions of the vandalizers. Among the slurs scrawled on the school’s entrance — including “pigs,” and expletives referring to “Allah” — one was quite clear: “Now this is a hate crime.”
“This apparently bias-motivated incident should be hould be investigated as a hate crime, with the strongest possible charges brought against the perpetrators once they are apprehended,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the director of communications at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a press release. “The recent spike in anti-Muslim hate rhetoric and bias-motivated attacks on American Muslims and their institutions must be addressed by our nation’s leaders.”
The vandalization occurred in the wake of a series of incidents targeting Muslim Americans, including the recent suspected arson attack on an Islamic community center in Houston, and a fatal shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C., where three young Muslims — Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan — were killed by Craig Stephen Hicks, an avowed atheist, in what many have deemed a hate crime.
A preliminary police investigation suggested that Hicks shot the three over an ongoing parking space dispute — a claim that has been met with skepticism by many following the case. “Deep down everyone in this community knows it was a hate crime,” Yusor’s best friend wrote in a commentary for Fusion.net. “But how do you prove it?”
Some cite the shooter’s virulent atheism and antagonism for other religions, as displayed on Facebook posts and elsewhere, as evidence that the crime was not motivated by purely anti-Muslim sentiments.
“My answer to that is he had fights with everybody, but he shot three Muslims in the back of the head,” Hooper told ThinkProgress.
According to the FBI’s latest hate crime statistics report, religiously motivated offenses accounted for 17 percent of all the 5,922 single-bias hate crimes reported in 2013. Among the religiously motivated hate crimes, 59.2 percent were anti-Jewish, 14.2 percent were anti-Muslim, 6.4 percent were anti-Catholic, 3.6 percent were anti-Protestant, and 0.6 percent were anti-Atheism, according to FBI statistics.
While helpful, the FBI reports only capture a portion of many of the anti-Muslim incidents occurring domestically, Hooper told ThinkProgress. “The FBI only gets the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “People call us with these kinds of things. In general people are reluctant to contact the FBI or reluctant to call local police authorities because of a ‘let’s stay under the radar, not make waves’ kind of attitude. We’ve gotten a number of reports of Muslim women being accosted, people shouting Muslim slurs, they’re targeted because of the headscarf. Just personally I’ve received dozens of hate calls and hate emails, and some death threats.”