(SEATTLE, WA, 3/4/16) â€“ The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) today expressed solidarity with the Sikh community in that state following the vandalism and desecration of a Sikh temple in Spokane.
The Sikh Temple of Spokane was vandalized Wednesday night and early Thursday by a man who â€œmistakenly thought the temple was a mosqueâ€ and that the house of worshipÂ was affiliated with ISIS. [NOTE: Sikh men who wear beards and turbans as part of their faith are often targeted by bigots who mistake them for Muslims.]
Jeffrey C. Pittman, 44, was arrested Thursday morning inside the temple after a short altercation with police. Police say Pittman admitted that he broke into the temple through a side door because he was cold and hungry. Once inside, he became convinced the temple was a mosque. He allegedly defaced and ripped pages from the Sikh faithâ€™s holy text.
Pittman was charged armed burglary, malicious mischief and malicious harassment based on religious discrimination.
In a statement, CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari said:
â€œHate speech leads to hate crimes. When hate speech and conspiracy theories against an American minority are constantly spread by public figures, and go unchallenged by fair-minded leaders, they foster an atmosphere that causes hate crimes. Never before in our nationâ€™s history have reported hate crimes or bias incidents targeting Muslims, or those perceived as Muslim, been as high. During most of these attacks, attackers uttered or expressed the same anti-Muslim views repeated daily by candidates and elected leaders.
â€œAmerican Muslims stand with the Sikh community of Spokane and of Washington state in rejecting the intolerance and ignorance that prompts such incidents. We thank local law enforcement authorities for their prompt response and swift apprehension of the alleged perpetrator.â€
Bukhari noted that CAIR has repeatedly condemned attacks on and discrimination against American Sikhs.
CAIR recently released a report on more than 70 incidents targeting American mosques and religious institutions in 2015 that showed a greater frequency of damage, destruction, vandalism, and intimidation than in any other year since CAIR started tracking such cases in 2009.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. 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. www.cair.com
CONTACT: CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari, 206-931-3655, firstname.lastname@example.org