The main sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond was vandalized early Monday morning.
The granite sign in front of its facility was smashed, with a portion of the top border broken off and a crack on the front of the sign.
MAPS President Mahmood Khadeer said they think it happened sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. They learned about the vandalism later Monday morning when their office manager was the first to arrive for work. Khadeer said this is the first time the mosque has been targeted by vandals, though they did receive a bomb threat following the Orlando shooting in June.
When the office manager saw the vandalized sign, he called the police and filed a report.
Khadeer said the Redmond Police Department is still investigating the incident and Police Chief Kristi Wilson has emailed him personally to let him know how hard they are working on the case.
“Acts like this aren’t representative of the Redmond community and will not be tolerated,” said Mayor John Marchione. “The city works closely with MAPS leadership and our Islamic community to ensure that they and all residents feel safe in their homes, at their place of business and where they worship.”
Rep. Suzan DelBene of the First Congressional District, which includes Redmond, added, “This hateful act of vandalism doesn’t reflect the inclusive values of the First District and our country. I’m deeply saddened that members of our community are experiencing fear and intimidation at their place of worship. We must reject these actions in no uncertain terms, and stand united against hate.”
Khadeer said he was “really disappointed” when he learned about the vandalism, adding that it was fortunate the damage was just to the sign and nothing more.
And while it has been disheartening and sad, he said they will not let this act intimidate them. In a letter to the MAPS community, he said they are activating a number of security measures including having round-the-clock armed guards in and around the building, increasing their own security staff and only opening the front door until further notice. Khadeer added in his letter that that the whole mosque is monitored by cameras.
Khadeer said they will not make any changes to their programming, which includes a Thanksgiving dinner celebration for the residents of Tent City 4 on Wednesday.
He acknowledged that it may be easy to fall prey to fear when such incidents happen but encouraged people to trust in Allah, trust in the goodness of man and to return hate with kindness.
“I am confident that this act does not represent the feelings of Redmond residents,” Marchione said. “Our community will continue to stand strongly in favor of diversity and inclusion and not allow an individual act of vandalism to define us.”
Since the sign was vandalized, Khadeer said he and MAPS have received a lot of support from people within and outside of the Muslim community.
In addition to people offering financial assistance to pay for the sign damage, he said the support people are offering has been open ended. For example, Khadeer said, a rabbi from Seattle contacted him and gave him her phone number, telling him that if he needed anything, to let her know.
“It is amazing,” he said.
Khadeer said it is that kind of support that gets him going, knowing that they have people they can rely on and that they are not alone.
“We will not let the hate of one overshadow the love of many,” he wrote in his letter. “We will remain hopeful yet vigilant. We will not let hate intimidate us.”
Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington state, said their main concern is for the children that go to school at the mosque every day.
He said that American-Muslim children need to hear from their lawmakers that “they have the right to have the same hopes and dreams as other young Americans.” Bukhari added that those children aren’t getting that message when such acts of vandalism occur.
In 2015, Bukhari said CAIR Washington received the highest number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes ever, about one to two daily and more than 700. By the end of 2016, he said they will most likely have the same numbers.
CAIR has received several reports following the United States presidential election, Bukhari noted.
On Nov. 15, University of Washington, Bothell Chancellor Wolf Yeigh wrote on the school’s website that he was told several men approached some Muslim women students on campus and demanded that they remove their hijabs, or head scarves.
Yeigh added: “Let me be clear. This type of behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated at UW Bothell. This is not only a violation of the women’s right to practice their faith, it is also a clear violation of our values at UW Bothell. In addition, such an act may be potentially a criminal assault, and a hate crime. This is a serious offense.”
Also on Nov. 15 on the University of Washington Seattle campus, it was reported that a man struck a Muslim woman student wearing a hijab with a bottle in the face, leaving a bruise, according to Bukhari.
Bukhari added that CAIR has received four to five reports of Muslim grade schoolers being bullied in the greater Seattle area.
Redmond Reporter editor Andy Nystrom contributed to this report.