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MOORHEAD — Members of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center found their mosque vandalized with red spray-painted hate speech, a swastika and a broken window the morning of Sunday, April 25, about halfway through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Red spray-paint words and phrases on the building read “Death to Islam” and "Can’t Vote." Racial epithets and a swastika were painted at the main entrance. The words “Kane Lives” with a poorly painted scorpion and the word Nod were at the back and front of the mosque. Both words are references to the once-popular video game Command and Conquer, where Commander Kane is a charismatic and totalitarian leader of the Brotherhood of Nod.
A window at the back of the mosque was also broken.
“People showed up in the dark and did these things. We are a religion of peace,” said Sajid Ghauri, mosque advisor. “Now, people of all religions are coming out to help us.”
Mosque vice president Hammed Ademola said that about 20 minutes after the last person left the building on Saturday, April 24, surveillance video footage showed a person wearing camouflage clothing, a pulldown mask and dark sunglasses near the mosque, 2215 12th Ave. S in Moorhead. The person called someone on a cell phone and then began spray painting the building.
Moorhead Police on Sunday afternoon released still photos of that suspect captured from the surveillance video.
Six hours after news of the vandalism spread throughout Fargo and Moorhead, a GoFundMe page created by Jihan Muhammed raised $20,446 out of a $20,000 goal with 610 donations.
Another GoFundMe page created by Ademola raised $2,944 from 71 donations within four hours, and had a goal of raising $25,000 for equipping the mosque with better security equipment.
"Moorhead mosque is under attack," Ademola wrote on the page. "We wake up this morning to see the following hate and threat signs on our mosque."
Hukun Dabar, executive director of the Afro American Development Association, asked the community in a Facebook post to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.
“Our Moorhead mosque was vandalized last night. In the middle of our holy month of Ramadan, I find this attack cowardly and hateful. An attack on one of our communities in Moorhead is an attack on all of us. We are one community that loves and values diversity. Our Muslim brothers and sisters deserve to pray and worship their God in peace during this holy month,” Dabar said.
Hammed said, “We are peaceful. People should not be scared. Everyone should know that we are here for peace. We would like to invite the person who did this to come and talk. That way, we can understand each other better."
People representing other religious groups, including Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian and Satanism showed up in support around 1 p.m. Sunday at the mosque to help clean up, but mosque leaders moved the cleanup effort to 1 p.m. Monday, April 26.
Police were still gathering evidence at the site Sunday.
Max Schick of Fargo is a Satanist, and although he doesn’t believe in the Islamic faith, he stands for freedom of religion.
“I understand what discrimination is like on a very personal level,” Schick said. “It’s very tough.”
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson, a Lutheran, was horrified when she heard the news and condemned the vandalism while offering support to the mosque.
“Hate has no home in Moorhead, and we stand in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors,” Carlson said. “This is not acceptable in our community.”
Already, area companies are offering to donate equipment, supplies and manpower to clean the building.
The Moorhead Police Department said officers were dispatched to the mosque around 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Both Moorhead Police and the Fargo office of the FBI are investigating the crime.
“Word of this crime spread this morning. Moorhead and Fargo residents are sharing overwhelming support for the Islam Center congregation, joining Mayor Shelly Carlson in denouncing the incident,” the City of Moorhead said in a statement.
Moorhead City Manager Dan Mahli said, “I can’t imagine this happening to my place of worship. We stand with Moorhead’s Islamic community. Hatred is not welcome in Moorhead."
On Sunday night, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis, Horace Mayor Kory Peterson and Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson sent out a joint statement "unequivocally denouncing" the vandalism at the mosque.
"Those criminal actions are completely contradictory to the values of tolerance, respect and acceptance we embrace in all of our communities. The vandalism was a heinous act of hate attacking the center during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan," the joint statement said.
"United, we echo Mayor Shelly Carlson’s message that hate — of any kind, shape or form — does not have a home in this metro. These despicable actions will not be tolerated in any of our cities. While the intent of these senseless crimes is to divide us, our metro has always rallied together in times of despair and we are asking you to do that again," the joint statement said.
The hate speech portrayed in the vandalism will only help bring the community closer together, Ghauri said. The mosque is slated to became a Muslim school and a place where everyone is welcome to come and learn more about the Islamic faith, he said.
"Our community is great. I've lived here for 32 years and I have had no problems with things like this," Ghauri said. "The support is so strong, so these kinds of actions do not scare us. "
"Moorhead is the most welcoming community I've ever known and they will stand up," said Ahmed Makaraan, who worships at the center. "This is an opportunity for the mosque and there will be good things that come from this: the opportunity to learn about one another."
Mara Morken, a concerned citizen who showed up Sunday, said companies are already asking to help in any way they can.
"This is devastating, but we now have the opportunity to make it better," Morken said.