A Jersey City mosque reported that it received a threatening letter calling for violence against Muslims in the latest in a rash of bias incidents targeting Islamic institutions.
The letter, sent to the Masjid Al-Iman, stated that “You and your filthy kind will be beheaded” and featured an illustration with the words “MUSLIM SLAYER.” It was postmarked in Sheffield, UK. Similar threatening notes were recently sent to mosques in Maryland and Virginia.
“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to treat this and all the other cases of threats and violence targeting American mosques with the seriousness they deserve and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement released Friday.
“Many faith communities, including Muslims, are increasingly alarmed by hateful acts committed by those who have been emboldened by the current political climate.”
Another institution, the Muslim Center of Middlesex County in Piscataway, also reported this week that it received multiple threats by email and voice mail. The threats prompted them to cancel a leadership training event last weekend due to safety concerns. But the mosque went ahead with a planned open house.
In a Facebook message, the imam said the open house was a chance to build relationships in the community at a difficult time.
"This is one of the rare occasions where a threat has surfaced. Perhaps it is due to the climate that is in our country at the moment. We are hopeful it is not something that is lasting. We are hopeful once people get to know us and we get to know other people there will be a greater relationship," said Imam Raouf Zaman.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it plans to release a report soon on islamophobia in America showing that 2016 was the worst year on record for incidents in which mosques were targets of bias. Such incidents are continuing this year. In addition to threats by mail, phone and email, arson fires also were set at mosques in Florida, Texas and Washington, according to news reports.
The mosque incidents come amid a wave of recent bomb threats to Jewish community centers in New York, Michigan, New Jersey and other states. Dozens of gravestones were vandalized in Jewish cemeteries in three locations in Missouri, Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
Also, on Feb. 22, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer and a native of India, was shot and killed in a bar in Olathe, Kansas, in an incident that the FBI is now investigating as a hate crime. The alleged shooter reportedly thought he and his colleague were Middle Eastern and shouted at them to “get out of my country.”
The man's cousin, Sai Kota, of Edison, said in an interview with The Record that Kuchibhotla's death had been devastating and that he hoped people who hear about his family's loss will be moved to reject violence.
“None of us wants his death to just be someone in my family who passed away,” he said. “We want this to be the start of fighting back, the start of getting rid of this kind of hate in this country.”