When graffiti was found on a Fremont church by the congregation on Sunday morning, rather than paint over it, they decided to embellish it with a wreath and host a memorial service, pastor Bruce Green said Wednesday.

The graffiti, which appeared outside Green’s office at the Centerville Presbyterian Church, said “R.I.P. Alia Ansari,” commemorating the Muslim woman who was shot to death in Fremont on Oct. 19. Her family members have said the only motive they can imagine for Ansari’s killing would have been the hijab, or headscarf, that she wore.

“We want to provide a symbol to return a blessing for a curse,” Green said. “Let’s embrace that and try to leverage it in a positive way.”

At least five spots in Fremont were tagged with Afghan gang-related graffiti over the weekend.

“They all appear to be of the same color paint, black paint. They’re occurring within a recent time frame following the homicide. So our investigators are looking into those, but right now, it’s misdemeanor vandalism,” said Dennis Madsen of the Fremont police.

“We left it partly because it is a very unique graffiti message,” said Green, who describes himself as a “bridge-building facilitator” between Christian churches and the Muslim community in Fremont. . .

Safaa Ibrahim, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area, said, “We want (police) not to rule it out and put timely attention to it.”

Madsen said police have a person of interest in Ansari’s killing in custody at the Santa Rita jail on an unrelated parole violation, but “no official charges have been made and no motive has been established.”

Abiya Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Wednesday that while she hopes Ansari’s murder was not a hate crime, “it is a natural conclusion.”

Ahmed added that her group plans to hold a forum in Fremont in response to the recent graffiti, so that people may discuss their feelings surrounding the murder more constructively.


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