In the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a mosque in Minnesota was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti.
Early Sunday morning, police officers in Moorhead, Minnesota, were dispatched to the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead Mosque on a report of vandalism to the building.
According to a press release from the Moorhead Police Department, officers found hate messages directed toward the Islamic faith and its followers spray-painted on several areas of the building’s exterior.
Such messages include “Death to Islam,” “F**k Islam” and a Nazi swastika symbol.
Video surveillance from the building captured images of a suspect wearing a camouflage jacket and dark ski mask.
Moorhead Police Captain Deric Swanson told Newsweek that the community is very supportive and “behind the department” on this investigation, which remains “very open and active.”
“This is the most attention any crime in the area has received,” he said.
Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that her heart was with the Muslim community in her state and that crimes like this are a “routine reality for many Muslims in this country.”
Newsweek reached out to Omar for further comment.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is “not taking this lightly” and said this is not the first instance of anti-Muslim hate in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“[North Dakota] White supremacist militia groups in 2016 actually put out a video of them shooting at a replica mosque,” Hussein told Newsweek. “So there are threats from white supremacy militia groups from that region that have been active and ongoing,” including in private Facebook groups.
Hussein and CAIR-MN is calling on local, state and federal law-enforcement authorities to investigate this and other anti-Muslim attacks as hate crimes.
“I’m not sure the FBI actually does investigations of these hate crimes seriously unless there’s public pressure,” he said. “We know that because we’ve had multiple vandalisms, multiple targeting of mosques in Minnesota and no one has been caught for any of those. So we’re concerned that they will not take this as seriously as we want them to take it.”
He said officers often “don’t do the due diligence necessary” to find if the crimes are motivated by religious or racial bias.
“I think the amount of resources allocated for finding these individuals is not the same [as other crimes], and that’s why hate crimes go unreported and also do not get resolved” Hussein said.
According to a 2020 report from the FBI, hate crimes in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade, as federal officials recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s.
Additionally, the Associated Press noted that while the number of agencies reporting hate crimes increased, the FBI found that the number of agencies participating in the program dropped from the year before and a large number of police agencies appeared not to submit any hate crime data.
CAIR-MN also is working on hate-crime legislation to update the state’s hate-crime statutes to allow community organizations to report hate crimes to the Department of Human Rights, update police training to respond to hate crimes and treat hateful graffiti as a hate crime.
Hussein also said the community “knew this was coming” because there is a “great deal of fear” in general of attacks targeting people during Ramadan, as mosques see large gatherings of people every night.
“We were also concerned because we knew after January 6, white supremacy groups will continue to target communities of color, particularly the Muslim community,” he said.
Moorhead police officials said the investigation is active and that the Moorhead Police Department Patrol and Investigative units are being assisted by the Fargo Office of the FBI.