(LOS ANGELES, CA, 10/11/07) – On Wednesday, October 10, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with Muslim and interfaith community leaders, held a news conference in reaction to a weekend incident in which a group of people smashed car windows and attacked worshipers at the Islamic Center of San Joaquin Valley in Bakersfield, Calif. Slurs such as “Arab terrorists” and “go home terrorists” were allegedly used by the perpetrators.
At the news conference, CAIR-LA Civil Rights Coordinator Affad Shaikh commended local law enforcement authorities for their professional response to the incident, which is being investigated as a “hate crime” by the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.
“We thank the Kern County Sheriff’s Department for their prompt attention to the matter, and hope the perpetrators are brought to justice in a timely manner,” said Shaikh. “This incident highlights a national trend in which several mosques have been vandalized, burned or damaged in the past year alone based on either ignorance or bigotry.”
The Muslim advocacy group is conducting its own review of the incident and has contacted the FBI to ask that possible federal civil rights violations be investigated.
“We believe in our country’s principles that allow everyone to practice their religion without any fear of intimidation or persecution and thank the Sheriff’s Department for upholding those principles,” said Mohammad Mora, president of the Islamic Shura Council of Bakersfield. “We also are grateful for the support and solidarity expressed by the interfaith and other community members at this difficult time.”
Rabbi Paul Gordon of B’Nai Jacob in Bakersfield said: “Think about how diverse our community of Bakersfield is. If everyone starts attacking each other, then we’ll never have a safe place to go and worship God, or to come together and celebrate happy moments of life, or weddings or anything else.”
A letter of support was also issued by the Diocese of Fresno, in which Bishop John T. Steinbock stated: “While we still do not know all the facts about these incidents, we nevertheless deplore acts of vandalism or violence at any place of worship or against any faith community. This is particularly so if the violence results from ignorance, bigotry, or religious hatred.”
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Coordinator Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847, firstname.lastname@example.org