Two mosques in Hawthorne, California, were vandalized over the weekend with the name Jesus spray-painted on walls and fences, according to the San Bernardino Sun.
Hawthorne is near Los Angeles, about 70 miles away from San Bernardino where suspected Islamic extremists murdered 14 people and wounded 22 on December 2. The vandalism is suspected to be linked to the San Bernardino attack and comes amid a wave of anti-Muslim violence, vandalism, and bigotry following Islamic extremist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere.
Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning vandals wrote “Jesus is the way” on the Islamic Center of Hawthorne. They also wrote “Jesus” on a fence outside the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque and left a plastic grenade in the mosque’s driveway, leading to a temporary evacuation of the area, according to Denver’s FOX 31. Both incidents have been classified as hate crimes.
A member of the Baitus-Salaam Mosque, Zahid Mian, told the San Bernardino Sun that members found the graffiti on their way to early prayer at around 5 a.m. Sunday morning.
“As Muslims we don’t really find [the crosses] very offensive,” Mian said. “But the act of vandalizing is disturbing.”
Although Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, they nonetheless revere him as a prophet and an important figure in their own religion. They also regard him as a Muslim and believe his second coming will bring peace to the earth.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an Islamic sect with international scope, founded near the end of the 19th century in India. Sadiqa Rashid Malik, a leader in the Los Angeles East chapter, also spoke to the San Bernardino Sun about the vandalism.
“We’re a very safe and peaceful community,” Malik said. “We don’t know what could have inspired somebody to do something like that. It is a hate crime and it is someone who is not very well aware of our community.”
Vandalism of mosques in Hawthorne is just the latest high-profile act of bigotry against Muslims and Arab-Americans. In the decade since 9/11, the ACLU documented dozens of anti-mosque acts of vandalism. A recent upsurge in anti-Muslim activity is attributed to the San Bernardino and Paris shootings, as well as increasingly hostile anti-Muslim rhetoric from political leaders like GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who recently suggested banning all Muslims from entry to the U.S.
Just days before the Hawthorne vandalism, someone set fire to a mosque belonging to the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley, another California mosque. The Inquisitr reported that a suspect, Carl James Dial, Jr., had been arrested in connection with the incident. He was charged with “two counts of arson, one of commission of a hate crime, one of maliciously starting a fire, and one of second-degree burglary.”
The violence is by no means limited to mosques. Alternet recently compiled a list of dozens of violent, anti-Muslim incidents since the Paris attacks. These include a University of Cincinnati student being called a terrorist by a motorist who nearly ran her over and a Muslim woman in France being punched and cut.
In many of these instances, victims report feeling a lack of support from witnesses to the bigotry. Two Muslim women at a diner in Austin, Texas – considered a liberal bastion in the state – were told to go back to Saudi Arabia by a man who also asked if they had a gun and dared them to shoot him. Other restaurant-goers reportedly sat by quietly.
But the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community remains eager to reach out and better inform people’s perceptions about their faith, and they have a valuable lesson to share.
“We would like for people to come and ask us questions and learn about our beliefs and Islam,” Mian said. “Many of us fled Pakistan and places like that to come to America so we can worship freely. It’s kind of shocking because we all grew up thinking that America was the land of freedom and opportunity and everyone was respected for their beliefs.”
[Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]