Community leaders call out anti-Muslim graffiti at South Philadelphia mosque

Elected officials and members of the United Muslim Masjid came together Monday to denounce Islamophobic graffiti that was written on the outside of a South Philadelphia mosque last week.

The vandal, who remains at large, scribbled the messages early on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 19, on the glass doors and windows of the United Muslim Islamic Center, on the 1200 block of Point Breeze Avenue in the Point Breeze neighborhood, mosque representatives said.

The perpetrator wrote that Muslim men and women are “stupid and dumb” and “eat crabs,” and “read your Torah” was also featured in the graffiti, said Qasim Rashad, amir of UMM, which also operates a mosque at 15th and Christian streets.

Someone vandalized the United Muslim Islamic Center last week in Point Breeze.United Muslim Masjid

Anti-Muslim sentiments were also graffitied onto an unrelated senior center on the same block of Point Breeze Avenue, according to police.

Security camera footage shows that an individual, not a group, vandalized the building, and the video indicates that the person is not “mentally sound,” Rashad said. However, he does think the graffiti was influenced by ongoing violence in the Middle East.

“I don’t believe that the person is of the Jewish faith,” Rashad said. “We don’t know what their mental state is. I can only assume that a person who does such a thing can’t be in their right state of mind.”

Salima Suswell, executive director of Emgage Pennsylvania, a Muslim civic engagement organization, said she has seen “a rise in anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric that is reminiscent of post-9/11″ over the past two weeks.

“Painful, inflammatory and irresponsible language is being used against our community, opening old wounds and making us feel unsettled and afraid,” she added, speaking at a news briefing Monday outside the United Muslim Islamic Center.

She mentioned an Oct. 13 incident in Harrisburg, in which a man allegedly pointed a gun at people participating in a pro-Palestine demonstration, and a double stabbing in Illinois that left a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy dead.

Qasim Rashad, amir of United Muslim Masjid, speaks Monday, Oct. 23, at a news briefing outside the United Muslim Islamic Center in Point Breeze.Jack Tomczuk

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, in statements last week, said that they have seen an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities, in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7 and the ensuing fighting.

City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and state Rep. Jordan Harris, whose districts include the Islamic center, showed up to Monday’s event to show support.

“This is not about politics or global affairs for me. This is about family and friendship,” Harris said. “This mosque is a beacon of hope for this community.”

UMM opened its first mosque in 1994 and established the Point Breeze Avenue center 16 years ago. Rashad said a non-Muslim resident of the neighborhood brought flowers and a card to the mosque the day after the graffiti appeared.

“The community is very much in support of what we do,” he added. “Here at United Muslim Islamic Center, we feed the people, we clothe the people, we have literacy classes.”

Anyone with information about vandalism is asked to contact the Philadelphia Police Department’s tip line at 215-686-8477.

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