(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 12/29/2023) – The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia) today called on law enforcement authorities to investigate vandalism targeting Masjid Al-Jamia mosque in West Philadelphia as a hate crime.
Biased statements were spray-painted on the mosque’s main entrance and outside facade facing Walnut Street.
The messages left by the suspect or suspects were discovered early Friday morning and mosque administrators immediately reported the incident to Philadelphia Police Department.
The vandals wrote phrases including “Give [peace sign] a chance” and other symbols, including a Star of David, on the doors and walls of the mosque. A white male in a red overcoat was captured by the mosque’s surveillance system. (Photos and videos below.)
CAIR-Philadelphia is calling for stepped-up security and police protection in West Philadelphia, home to multiple mosques and Islamic schools. The civil rights organization also urged the local Muslim community and Islamic institutions to take extra security precautions by using advice offered in CAIR’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.”
Dr. Ahmet Tekelioglu, CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director, said:
“We are calling on Philadelphia communities to stand united in the face of today’s hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric against Muslims. The kind of violation Masjid Al-Jamia has seen is unacceptable; this is the third mosque that has been defaced with bigoted language in the last two months. Our office continues to see an unprecedented uptick in reports alleging bias incidents and discrimination. Law enforcement authorities must investigate this vandalism as a hate crime.
“We call on civic and political leaders and interfaith allies to show their solidarity with Al-Jamia community by sending letters to their 4228 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 address. When anti-Muslim bigots tried to intimidate worshippers at Al-Jamia in 2018, our interfaith allies showed up strongly for the community, which has been one of the most beautiful displays of multifaith solidarity in our region.”
Speaking on behalf of Masjid Al-Jamia, Shuja Moore said:
“We will not be intimidated by such bigotry. Our beautiful and amazingly diverse Al-Jamia community is more committed than ever to continue our efforts toward building bridges in our community and dispel the stereotypes about Islam. Should they come forward and admit to their mistake, we will be ready to have an informative and restorative conversation with this individual.”
CAIR-Philadelphia tracked over 15 anti-mosque incidents in Pennsylvania in the last 8 years, many of them happening in the aftermath of the deadly New Zealand attacks.
These include vandalization of Khair Community Center in November 2023, United Muslim Islamic Center in October 2023, and Masjidullah Center for Human Excellence in February 2023, as well as the 2019 vandalization of Norristown Islamic Society and the 2017 arson attempt targeting Upper Darby Islamic Center Masjid Al Madinah. In December 2023, Islamic Center of Delaware County reported receipt of hate mail, and Islamic Community Center of Lancaster experienced an effort at anti-Muslim proselytizing during their Friday prayers.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, PhD; 617-401-5397 (mobile), email@example.com.