By Debra J. White –
Tucson police are seeking leads as the Islamic Center of Tucson recovers from vandalism that left Qur’ans scattered throughout the prayer room with pages torn out, ripped and crumpled.
A vandal broke in about 3:30 a.m. March 13, according to surveillance video, which shows a young white man wearing a red University of Arizona T-shirt. The suspect has not been apprehended yet but his photo has been widely circulated.
Tucson police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Bay says they’re actively pursuing the case. Bay says the police are evaluating the surveillance tape to help identify a suspect and make an arrest. Since it is spring break, the police are awaiting the return of students who may be able to identify the suspect. Bay says that anyone with information about the case is urged to call the Tucson police or their local police department.
The center’s office manager R. Mir detailed some of the damage, saying, “Some copies of the Quran were salvaged while other copies were disposed of properly.”
A GoFundMe account has been established to help pay for new Qur’ans for the center, and a review of the center’s Facebook page reveals encouraging messages such as one from Stacie L. Davis who offered to buy a Qur’an and send it to the masjid. Another woman, Gianna C. De Luca, wrote that real Americans don’t support or tolerate this kind of behavior.
The center is no stranger to vandalism as reported in the New York Times on February 16, 2016. Two apartment buildings near the mosque are occupied mostly by University of Arizona students who host drunken parties on weekends. Students have hurled beer bottles, crushed peanut shells and other debris onto the mosque grounds. Local Tucson newspapers indicated that many students were embarrassed by the national coverage. There were evictions and campus sensitivity sessions to alleviate the tension. After a while the disorderly behavior quieted down.
Hate crimes against Muslims have increased, however, since Donald Trump’s election as president. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that tracks hate crimes, within the first few days after Trump’s election there were at least 30 cases of anti-Muslim criminal acts. Furthermore, the FBI said that in 2015 there were a total of 5,818 hate crimes, an increase of 6 percent from the previous year. The largest increase was anti-Muslim crimes with 257 reported.