HOUSTON, Texas : A mosque in the US state of Virginia has been vandalized for the second time in the past six months.
The latest crime happened over the weekend. Authorities say the West End Islamic Center in Glen Allen, a northern suburb of the capital of Richmond, was targeted by vandals on Saturday afternoon.
“This attack is incredibly hurtful,” the center said in a statement. “It’s hard to imagine that someone would want to attack our place of worship.”
Police say the damage included a smashed window, overturned tables and chairs, and graffiti.
“Whenever a house of worship is targeted, law enforcement needs to take it seriously and not minimize it to, ‘Oh, it’s just another isolated incident,’” said Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In a phone interview with Anadolu Agency, Hooper emphasized this was the second incident of vandalism at that same mosque in just six months.
The previous incident happened in the fall, which Hooper said included physical damage, including graffiti. He says the more concerning aspect of this latest crime is that it is taking place during the middle of the holy month of Ramadan.
“We don’t know the motive now, but especially since it’s Ramadan, it’s only prudent to investigate,” he said.
“Many times when police see something as vandalism, they give it a low priority and don’t take the further step to make the investigation a priority,” added Hooper. “But the fact that this is a place of worship, makes this a more serious situation.”
Hooper says there’s also the possibility of state and federal law enforcement agencies getting involved in the investigation.
“Some people may say, ‘oh it’s just kids being kids,’ ” Hooper said, referring to a common belief that teens are usually involved in vandalism incidents. “Well, even teenagers can have bigoted motivations for their actions and need to be held accountable.”
Hooper says police are currently assisting the mosque with adding surveillance cameras to the premises, which he says is a deterrent to criminals and is part of the handbook CAIR issues to places of worship across the US.
While CAIR believes there’s a possible bias motive to this latest incident of vandalism, authorities continue to investigate every aspect of the crime.
“You just don’t know until you can make an arrest,” said Hooper. “It seems that law enforcement is taking this seriously and paying more attention to it.”— AA