MI: FBI PROBES MOSQUE VANDALISM
Police began special law enforcement procedures in the area of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center on Thursday to discourage acts of vandalism, after a fourth incident since late last year occurred at the mosque Wednesday morning.
The FBI is investigating the latest event, in which the words "center of the party of Satan" were painted in Arabic on the front and back of the mosque where mostly Shi'a Muslims, who emigrated from Iraq in the early 1990s, worship.
"I personally called the FBI," said Mayor Jack O'Reilly. "We have no tolerance for any of this activity and we are taking this very seriously.
"We are on guard and pursuing the investigation," Reilly added.
Federal authorities say the FBI is pursuing the case and investigating other instances of vandalism in recent months at mosques and a Christian church where people of Arab descent worship.
The vandalism may constitute hate crimes that are prosecuted under federal civil rights law.
"It is a little out of the ordinary for the FBI to become involved in acts of vandalism, but the nature of the recent events makes this a high priority for us because it falls into the realm of hate crimes," said William Kowalski, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI office in Detroit.
"We would encourage anyone in the community who notices something to provide us with information -- people hanging around there who are not supposed to be there, kids with cans of spray paint, individuals who have strong feelings against certain beliefs," Kowalski said.
Local Islamic leaders last week signed an agreement by which Sunni and Shi'a Muslims pledged to worship and live in harmony.
Although some leaders say that a series of incidents of vandalism along Warren Avenue in Detroit in early January may have been Sunnis acting against property owned by Shi'as, they doubt that Wednesday's incident was perpetrated by Muslims.
They noted that although the words were in Arabic, they were painted with the use of a stencil, not by a free hand. The Arabic word used for "center," they say, is not used in casual conversation by Arabs, but in classic Arabic.