Mosque vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti

Matt O'Brien
Associated Press

Providence, R.I. — Vandalism at a Rhode Island mosque discovered not long after the deadly attack in Nice, France, spurred a call by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for authorities around the U.S. to increase police patrols to protect Muslim institutions.

Mosque members said anti-Muslim graffiti was written in large red letters on the front of the Muslim Community Center of Kingston’s Masjid Al-Hoda and its windows were smashed. They discovered the vandalism after Thursday night’s attack in Nice that French officials have called an undeniable act of terror, though no group had claimed responsibility.

The mosque in South Kingstown is near the University of Rhode Island’s main campus and is attended by many Muslim students and faculty members. Its co-founder, Nasser Zawia, is also dean of URI’s graduate school and a pharmacy professor.

CAIR called on law enforcement to investigate the vandalism as a possible hate crime. The organization also condemned the truck attack in France, as well as comments by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich who argued that Muslims in the United States should be tested and be expelled from the country if they believe in Sharia law.

The state’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, visited the mosque Friday with the town’s police chief and URI’s president to show support for congregants and offer help. Neronha’s office says an investigation into the vandalism is being handled by the South Kingstown Police Department.

Zawia said the mosque, which opened in 2001, received “really wonderful, beautiful support” from the surrounding community Friday. He said people had worked since midnight to board up the windows and remove the graffiti and weekly Friday prayers were conducted as usual.