How An Iowa Community Fought Back Against Hate After Bigots Vandalized A Local Mosque

Several Christian leaders and their congregations gathered Sunday at an Iowa mosque to show support to their Muslim neighbors after vandals spray-painted graffiti on the local mosque, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier is reporting.

When worshipers at the Masjid Al-Noor Islamic Center in Waterloo showed up Saturday morning for prayers, they found that someone had spray-painted the word “Trump” on the mosque in red paint, as the Des Moines Register reported at the time.

Of course, damage to a building can be cleaned up, but the emotional damage is another matter. The Christian congregations of Waterloo showed up in force Sunday to let their Muslim neighbors know that they are not alone and that Waterloo will not stand by while their neighbors are hurting, says the Rev. Steve Williams of First United Methodist Church of Cedar Falls.

“If somebody was hurting in my congregation, we go right away. We would make a pastoral call. So that’s what we are doing. We are coming to show we care, we are concerned and as neighbors we want to be here and support you.”

Members of the Christian congregations joined with members of the mosque to dig a hole and plant a symbolic “peace tree,” and kids from both groups watered the new tree.

Dema Kazkaz, the president of the Islamic Center, told the assembled crowd that Mohammed compared a community to a body — and if one part of the body is in pain, the whole body hurts.

“If part of this body aches, the whole body is in pain. So you are our body, and thank you so much for showing your support and your love to all of us.”

The mosque’s cleric, Imam Adin Rasidagic, reminded the community that hate can happen anywhere — even Iowa.

“It could happen any place, but you really recognized it and gave us support, and that’s really a big thing for us and our community. We really feel that we are comfortable here with you, and that we always have around us good friends, good neighbors.”

Despite a show of support from Waterloo’s Christian community, and despite the spirit of cooperation shown between the Muslim and Christian communities on Sunday, the fact remains that a crime has been committed.

As of this writing, police have no suspects and no leads in the mosque vandalism.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants the vandalism treated as a hate crime. In a statement, CAIR-Iowa Executive Director Miriam Amer said that she believes Donald Trump himself should accept at least some of the blame for encouraging attitudes that make vandals think it’s okay to spray-paint his name on a place where Muslims worship.

“Because of Donald Trump’s mainstreaming of Islamophobia, and the resulting rise in anti-Muslim bigotry in our society, we urge law enforcement authorities to treat this as a possible hate crime.”

Donald Trump has, during his campaign, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, has encouraged stronger surveillance of Muslims, and has even suggested that Muslims carry an official identification card, according to the Washington Post.

Over the past two years year, hate-crime attacks against Muslims and mosques have been on the increase, even as hate crimes against other minorities have gone down, Salon reported in September.

Back in Iowa, police are asking anyone with information about the vandalism of the Waterloo mosque to come forward.

[Featured Image by Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock]