Los Angeles Islamic Center Vandalized Yet Again

November 9, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On November 9, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that "For the third time in two weeks, the Islamic Center of Southern California has been vandalized; police are investigating the incidents as hate crimes. Salam Al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said that, in the past, similar acts have been triggered by tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the Mideast. But he could not recall three other incidents in such a short time span. In response, officials have heightened security at the Vermont Avenue center, which houses a school for 105 students from preschool to sixth grade. The Los Angeles Police Department is also providing extra officers for the thousands of Muslims who attend Friday prayers at the center...Oddly, the first incident seemed as if it might be directed against Jews, not Muslims. On Oct. 26, two black swastikas were found painted on the center's entrance pillars. Underneath the swastikas were the words: "Zion go." In addition, the phrase 'Jews get out' was scratched on the glass doors. Officials said they had no explanation. The second incident was Oct. 29, when a rock was flung through the glass entrance door while people were gathered in the front prayer area. This Tuesday morning a guard station in the center's parking lot was kicked open and ransacked. A can of blue paint that had been in the small shack was opened and used to smear the guard's window. Nearby, a van in the parking lot that was to be donated to a member of the congregation was smeared with paint and graffiti. The side-view mirror was ripped off the van...Mohammad J.N. Qureshi, administrator of the center, said that, while the incidents were hurtful, it was important for the Muslim community to be aware of the vandalism and to increase security. Muslim officials estimate that Los Angeles County is home to more than 250,000 Muslims, who worship at about 75 mosques and Islamic centers. 'These things always seem to happen immediately after conflicts arise in the Mideast. It triggers acts against us. It's definitely a hate crime,' Qureshi said. 'For me, the anger is there. We want the public to know who we are and accept us.' After the second incident, Joe R. Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, held a news conference at the Islamic center, condemning the acts and expressing support for the Muslim community. California Deputy Atty. Gen. Phyllis Cheng and Howard Welinsky of the Jewish Federation were also present...Upon learning that another incident had occurred this week, Hicks said the Human Relations Commission would begin pressing the Police Department to determine whether the three incidents could be linked to the same person...LAPD spokesman Guillermo Campos said the three incidents were reported as hate crimes and are being investigated by burglary detectives in the Rampart Division. No suspects have been identified. Officers from the department's Anti-Terrorist Division will visit the center today to gather additional information."