Police chief: Hate graffiti on Portland mosque an 'anomaly'

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PORTLAND — Hateful words scrawled Monday morning on a mosque in East Bayside was one of a very few acts of crime triggered nationwide by the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to the city’s police chief.

Hours after President Barack Obama announced the killing of bin Laden late Sunday night, the Maine Muslim Community Center on Anderson Street was spray-painted with statements including “Osama today Islam tomorow (sic)” and “go home.”

Police Chief James Craig said Tuesday that a Washington, D.C.-based reporter interviewing him Monday evening about the hate crime told him the incident in Portland was the only one in the country that had been reported.

“Certainly this was an anomaly,” said Craig, adding that it is the first incident of hate against Muslims that he has witnessed since becoming Portland’s police chief two years ago.

On Tuesday morning, reports surfaced that hate email was sent to the Islamic Center of Minnesota.

Members of the Portland mosque did not report seeing the graffiti on the front of their building until after Monday morning prayers, which ended at about 6:30 a.m. Craig said the first reports came in at about 7:30 a.m.

“We’ve nailed the time down to between 7 and 7:30 that morning,” he said.

Craig said police advised the FBI about the incident, and that the bureau was expected to send an agent to the community center Tuesday.

Craig met with members of the center on Monday. He said he gave them tips on what to watch for and also told them to report any suspicious activity.

“We’re going to give that location and the other mosques in town extra attention,” he said. There are two other mosques in Portland.

Mahmoud Hassan, who prays at the mosque on Anderson Street, said he heard about the graffiti Monday morning.

He said this is the first time the 6-year-old center has been targeted, and that members on Monday discussed whether they should fear additional attacks.

“We feel, this is not a view shared by the general public,” Hassan said of the graffiti, which was covered with paint shortly after it was discovered.

Bishop Richard Malone, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Portland, in a statement on Tuesday condemned the vandalism and called on people to strive for inter-religious tolerance.

“Osama bin Laden was a man who sowed division and hatred,” Malone said. “We must not honor that legacy by allowing the event of his death to spawn hate, rather, now is the time to foster the ultimate victor: peace.”

Craig said police have no suspects in the hate crime, and encouraged anyone with information to report it to police, either by calling the anonymous tip line at 874-8584, texting the tip plus the word “gotcha” to 274637 (CRIMES); or going to the department website, portland-police.com, and selecting the “submit an anonymous crime tip” link.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net Follow her on Twitter: @katebucklin

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Hate graffiti written on the front of the Maine Muslim Community Center on Anderson Street Monday morning was quickly covered over. The FBI is now involved in investigating the incident.

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