Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 20, 2013

American-Islamic civil rights group asks FBI to investigate vandalism

BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights advocacy organization, has called on state and federal authorities to investigate the vandalism at the I.S.A.R. (Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region) Worship Center in Green Valley as a possible hate crime, according to a CAIR press release.

“Just as we have requested following past hate incidents targeting American mosques, we urge the FBI to join with local authorities in investigating this case,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR national communications director was quoted in the press release as stating.

During a telephone interview on Thursday from Washington, Hooper said that his office has already heard back from the FBI. “They acknowledged that they have received our request,” Hooper said. “That doesn’t mean that they have agreed to conduct an investigation. We won’t know when they start if they choose to investigate it.”

Hooper said that the number of hate crimes that target American Muslims is growing. “Unfortunately, we have seen an up-tick in these kinds of crimes,” Hooper said. “Arson attacks in Toledo, Ohio and Joplin, Mo., have been in the news lately, but that’s only a part of what we have seen.”

Hooper said that CAIR has distributed information with tips to protect mosques by clearing brush from the perimeter, changing any glass doors with solid doors and building better relationships in the community. “The most important thing is to install security cameras at the building,” he said.

Members of the I.S.A.R. found the vandalism on Monday. The vandalism  included words and symbols painted on the exterior walls of the worship center. The vandal or vandals wrote words defaming Allah and wrote other disparaging words on the mosque.

Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy E.P. Parks initiated an investigation at the mosque on Monday. “I wrote it up as a hate crime at the time,” he said.

Parks said that when he examined the crime scene on Monday, he found several broken beer bottles in the parking lot. However, on Wednesday morning, he found a potential item of evidence that may provide a lead in his investigation.

“I’m not sure what to do with it now that I have heard the FBI may become involved in the investigation,” Parks said. The case remains under investigation.