Neighbors in the tidy, middle-class Southampton neighborhood in south St. Louis said Monday they barely noticed the comings and goings of one of their enclave’s newest arrivals.

Nothing out of the ordinary anyway, aside from a steady stream of Iraqi cab drivers and other workers, and women and children, arriving for evening prayer services at the Islamic mosque.

The Islamic religious and community center, housed in a nondescript storefront building, was vandalized over the weekend. It was the second such incident since the Imam Hussin Foundation building opened last April.

“If someone is trying to send us a message,” with this act, “we receive it,” said Salah Ajmi, the mosque’s imam and a businessman. “But we do everything right and legal. This is wrong.”

Vandals damaged seven large glass windows with a blunt object sometime between midnight and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. Vandals struck the first time last summer, and Ajmi said he suspected teenagers. This time the damage was more extensive.

Police took fingerprints and are investigating. They wouldn’t say whether they consider it a hate crime. The FBI declined to comment.


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