Fort Collins, CO- Community members gathered outside the local Islamic Center Sunday evening to show solidarity after a vandal targeted the Muslim house of worship earlier in the day.
“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” was the overarching message on signs held by people of all faiths in the crowd. Attendees cheered as Sen. John Kefalas and President of the Islamic Center Tawfik AboEllail read the same in Spanish and Arabic.
The damage was first discovered when people arrived for the first prayer of the day about 5:30 a.m., AboEllail said.
Several large rocks were thrown through glass doors and into the prayer room, and a Bible was thrown through the broken glass. Outdoor furniture was overturned and the legs of a chair were jammed into the handles of one of the center’s outer doors.
AboEllail said he reviewed the center’s security footage and saw a man trying to break into the center using a screwdriver. When the man was unsuccessful, he began pelting the building with rocks. The man threw several rocks through the glass with such force that they left scuff marks on the wood paneling on the opposite side of the prayer room.
“Anything he could get a hold of, he wanted to damage,” AboEllail said. “Thank god he didn’t burn the building down.”
The incident comes in the wake of acts of vandalism at mosques around the country in recent months — including incidents of arson that damaged a mosque in Florida and destroyed another in Texas. After Sunday’s vandalism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement in which it called for authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
Fort Collins police officer Dustin Wier said the department has assigned a detective to the investigation, which is ongoing. The incident has not been identified as a bias-motivated crime, though Wier said nothing is ruled out.
AboEllail said he was disappointed with what he described as a “lukewarm” response by Fort Collins Police Services to the incident. The call for the vandalism came in about 5:40 a.m., but AboEllail said The police responded after 7 a.m.