FBI rules graffiti at Missouri mosque wasn’t hate crime

Islamic Center of SpringfieldWhen members of the Islamic Center in Springfield arrived for prayers Jan. 8, they were confronted with hate-filled graffiti scrawled across the walls of the building.

“You bash us in Pakistan. We bash you here,” the red spray paint said. One message, “Allah F…bar” implied an understanding of an Arabic saying, Allahu akbar – God is great. Other messages were sexual, including a drawing of a penis near the women’s entrance and a reference to Allah being gay. Two days later, another act of vandalism broke off an exterior water spigot.

The police were called both times. A Springfield Police Department incident report dated Jan. 8 describes the “nature of the call” as “graffiti.” “I called the police first,” said Robert Pollpeter, a member of the mosque. The police told him the investigation would go no further.

Pollpeter also called the FBI, which determined that the incident was not a hate crime. “At this point we have not initiated a hate crimes investigation,” said Bridget Patton, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Kansas City. A hate crime, she said, falls under the Civil Rights Act and would require a threat or prohibit a person from being able to exercise his or her freedoms.

“We view these events as hate crimes and we believe that because of the damage done these are felony crimes,” said mosque member Abdul Wahid in a written statement. “It is expected that it will cost at least $3,000 to fully restore our property to its former condition.”

Rabbi Rita Sherwin with Temple Israel agrees that the incident, like the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in 2002, “feels like it was a hate crime.”

News-Leader, 12 February 2011