Missouri mosque officials say vandalism was hate crime

Thursday, January 13, 2011 | 4:43 p.m. CST; updated 4:49 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 13, 2011

SPRINGFIELD — Officials at a recently vandalized Islamic center in southwest Missouri said Thursday they believe the offensive writings are a hate crime, but an early determination from federal law enforcement is that they aren't.

Joseph Pollpeter, spokesman for the Springfield Islamic Center, said the graffiti was discovered on three outside walls Saturday morning. Pollpeter said he contacted the Springfield police as well as the FBI.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that the graffiti included a phallic symbol near the door where women enter, the phrase "gay insurrection," a reference to Allah being gay, four-letter words and the phrase "You bash us in Pakistan we bash you here."

Pollpeter said he did not know who might have been responsible for the graffiti.

"There is no one we have our fingers pointed at," Pollpeter said. "We are on good terms with all our neighbors."

Pollpeter said he believes the graffiti, which he said will cost about $1,000 to have sandblasted off the walls, should be considered a hate crime.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim advocacy organization, said in a release Thursday his organization also wants state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.

Bridget Patton, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Kansas City, however, said the FBI investigated the graffiti but had determined it was not a hate crime.

"Basically at this point, we did respond. We were notified, and we do have a relationship with the Islamic Center down there," Patton said. "But at this point, we have determined there is no indication of a hate crime."

She said the case will be worked as vandalism and referred additional questions to the Springfield Police Department, which did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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