The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) building in Washington, D.C. was evacuated Thursday by the D.C. Fire Department after the office received an envelope with a “suspicious” powder substance and a hate message, Nihad Awad, the National Executive Director, tweeted.
D.C. firefighters responded to the incident at the prominent Muslim organization with Hazmat gear. Some staffers have remained quarantined inside the building. According to Buzzfeed, the initial testing of the substance came back “negative.”
“We have a foreign substance in the mail today with three staffers still quarantined on the inside until they can determine what the substance is,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s National Communications Director, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. He said that other staffers were outside, but “semi-quarantined.”
Hooper noted that the hateful message contained a message about “painful deaths,” but didn’t go into further details.
Additionally, Hooper told DCist, “We receive threats on almost a daily basis, so it’s nothing new for us. But a suspicious substance — that’s new. We don’t normally publicize threats to ourselves but when you have to evacuate, it’s a little different.”
— Nihad Awad نهاد عوض (@NihadAwad) December 10, 2015
On the heels of the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California and terrorist attacks in Paris, France, there has been widespread backlash against Muslims in the United States. ThinkProgress has documented more than 30 instances of Islamophobic attacks, threats, and harassment over the past several weeks.
CAIR also recently released a preliminary report documenting the “unprecedented” backlash, which the organization partially attributes to a “mainstreaming of Islamophobia by political candidates and lawmakers in the run-up to the 2016 general election.” For instance, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for an outright ban of Muslim immigration into the United States. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell, president of the right-wing Liberty University, said that students should arm themselves and “end those Muslims.”
On Thursday, the CAIR Bay Area office in Santa Clara, California reported that it also received a suspicious letter containing a white powder substance. The sender’s name was labeled “infidel,” according to a local NBC news affiliate. A reporter tweeted that several CAIR employees were taken to the hospital to be checked out as a precaution.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information emerges.