Law enforcement condemns letters threatening Muslims

Brian Melley
Associated Press

Los Angeles — Law enforcement officials condemned a hate-filled letter Monday directed at several California mosques that warned Muslims to leave the country to avoid being exterminated.

Los Angeles police are investigating identical letters received at two mosques in the city as a “hate incident,” but not a crime because it does not pose a specific threat, Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing said.

Photocopies of a handwritten letter were sent by mail to at least six mosques in California and one in Georgia that was addressed to “the children of Satan” and referred to Muslims as “vile and filthy people.” The letter called President-elect Donald Trump the “new sheriff in town” and said he would do to Muslims what Hitler did to Jews.

“He’s going to cleanse America and make it shine again,” said the letter, signed “Americans for a Better Way.” “You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

Trump’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Downing said he thinks the letter writer was emboldened by the current political environment. Police want to track the person down to see if any crimes were committed and find out more about what motivated it.

“Messages like that are written out of fear and uncertainty and the unknown,” Downing said. “This is a sickness. It’s a cancer we cannot allow to metastasize.”

The news conference was held at the Islamic Center of Southern California, where Muslim leaders and clerics were joined by the FBI, police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Muslims urged the letter writer to come forward to discuss Islam and debate the views espoused in the letter.

“Bullies feel bolstered, emboldened in dark alleys,” said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “So we’re telling this person, come out in broad daylight. Be a man and stand up for what you believe in, and let us discuss.”

The FBI is monitoring the situation and Special Agent Stephen Woolery asked people to come forward if more letters are received because they often go unreported. The FBI is not investigating at this point because the language, while awful, intimidating and harassing, does not pose a specific threat.

“Folks that are intent on doing harm of this nature never give us warning, never give us a heads up,” Woolery said. “So based on past experience, the likelihood of there being an attack based on these letters is pretty minimal.”

The letter was received by at least four mosques in Southern California, one in San Jose, one in Fresno and another in Savannah, Georgia, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The group asked the FBI to investigate and said it was reaching out to other mosques nationwide to find out if they had received similar letters.