CHICAGO – A number of Muslim and Christian worshipping houses in Chicago’s Waukegan and Gurnee came under systematic vandalism over the past days, sparking police investigations on the unprecedented attacks.
“This is the first time we’ve seen a coordinated vandalism attack on communities of faith, not just Muslims, on this scale,” Aymen Abdel Halim, the communications director for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, told the Daily Herald on Wednesday, February 19.
Earlier this month, a number of Gurnee churches have reported acts of vandalism.
This week, the attacks spread to hit St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Christian Church and the Islamic Foundation North in Waukegan.
According to city officials, investigations were launched after a dozen houses of worship were vandalized by hateful messages over the past week in Waukegan and Gurnee.
“It hits you right in the gut when you see it,” Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago said during a news conference at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Christian Church.
“It sounds like you have an equal opportunity bigot,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations,
“It happens all too often. It’s not just mosques, as we see in this incidence.” added Hooper who posted online the information about the attacks.
According to detective bureau and authorities, hate messages scrawled at the entrance of a mosque and a church were accompanied by a smiley face in red spray paint.
“Hate crime is not tolerated in our community,” said r Wayne Motley, Waukegan Mayor.
“Our entire (police) bureau is working on this case,” Motley told the Chicago Tribune.
“We do have leads and clues we are pursuing at this minute.”
Police investigation couldn't identify the attackers and his purposes, but a video footage for young man linked to the attacks were considered during investigations.
“I can tell you that it’s not a specific faith that’s being targeted,” said Tom Agos, crime analyst for the Gurnee Police Department.
The vandalism acts that targeted Waukegan and Gurnee religious sites were an opportunity to show solidarity between the two faiths.
“We feel the pain of our neighbors and friends at the Islamic Foundation North,” said Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos.
“We pray that the forces of love can overcome those who perpetuate hate and intolerance.”
“The haters are giving us an opportunity to display and show love,” said Stan Davis, of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.
Representatives of the two faiths have held a joint press conference on Wednesday to condemn the attacks, where congregational prayers were held too.
“We will try our best to help him to come out of the darkness and into the light,” said Imam Matthew Ramadan during the conference held at the Islamic Foundation North.
“We’ve been working together for a number of years.
“What this today will be doing is strengthening those bonds,” Ramadan added.
Muslim leaders have urged police to take the vandalism incident seriously citing the repeated attacks on worship places.
“They’ll often say it’s just drunken teenagers,” Hooper said.
“Well, drunken teenagers can have a hate motive. It looks like in this case they are taking it very seriously and acting appropriately.”
US Muslims, estimated at between seven to eight million, have been sensing hostility since 9/11 attacks.
All across the US, mosques have been facing fierce opposition recently.
At least 18 mosque projects — from Mississippi to Wisconsin — have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
A recent report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
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