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I Islamophobia

Political climate fueling anti-Muslim rhetoric, says local groups

By Whitney Burbank, For WPBF, On 04 November 2016, Read Original
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Members of Al-Amin Islamic Center of Florida were faced with an ugly message Wednesday morning but Islamic leaders said anti-Muslim rhetoric has been on the rise since the start of the election season.

"I don’t think the vandals responsible for this act understand that this country was founded in part so that people could have the right to worship peacefully," said Council on American Islamic Relations civil rights attorney Omar Saleh.

By Thursday, the graffiti had mostly been power washed away but a faint outline of the phrase remained. Someone had spray painted a four-letter word followed by ISIS on one side of the sign for the Boynton Beach Islamic center and ISLAM on the other side.

"I’d say the political atmosphere is right now is uncivilized," said Anti Defamation League attorney David Barkey.

While dirty politics is nothing new, civil rights groups said polarizing candidates have taken it to a whole new level.

"When people fan the flames of bias that some people may see that as a green light to act," said Barkey.

According to the American Civil Liberties union, since 2015 there have been more than five anti-mosque incidents in Florida, making the state one of the highest in the country.

"Surveillance of mosques banning on Muslim immigration all these topics stoke the community’s hostility to our Muslim neighbors," said Palm Beach County ACLU president Mark Schneider.

"We have a mosque that was vandalized (Wednesday), there was a church in Mississippi that was vandalized, spray painted ’vote Trump.’ There was a mosque vandalized last September, It was not just vandalized, it was torched to the ground, The suspect loaded his Facebook with ‘make America great again.’ That’s not making America great," said Saleh.

Thursday motives for the vandalism remained unclear as the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office continued to search for the suspect or suspects. A spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said detectives are investigating the vandalism in Boynton Beach as a hate crime.

The spray paint can be removed but Islamic leaders said better understanding is the only solution that will stick.

"There’s definitely a need to educate the public and let people know who we are. As Americans we need to take a look at ourselves right now,” said Saleh.

The American Muslim Alliance is hosting a picnic for the community this Sunday at John Prince Park.

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