Members of the American Muslim community in Massachusetts Sunday asked the U.S. Department of Justice and state officials to open a hate crime investigation following apparent anti-Muslim vandalism at a suburban Boston mosque. Vandals scrawled “USA” in large red letters, repeatedly across the exterior walls of the Islamic Center of Burlington, said officials of the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights group for Muslims.

The graffiti, which was discovered Sunday morning and reported to local police, fits in with an Islamophobic theme proffered by some national political figures who suggest Muslims are not "real Americans," the group said. The Burlington mosque also was targeted in 2013 when the building’s sign was defaced with similar “USA” graffiti.



"With national political figures falsely claiming that American Muslims cannot be patriotic citizens, it is not surprising that Islamic institutions are targeted by those emboldened by the mainstreaming of Islamophobia," said John Robbins, executive director of CAIR in Massachusetts. "We ask that state and federal law enforcement authorities investigate the apparent bias motive for this attack on a house of worship and that our nation's leaders speak out against growing anti-Muslim bigotry."

In recent months, vandalism and other hate speech has hit mosques in Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Nebraska, Tennessee, Ohio and New York, among other states, CAIR said. Activists have laid blame with some of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Both men have drawn criticism following remarks that many considered to be anti-Muslim.

Trump, the GOP field front-runner, said recently he was willing to consider closing down American mosques if they are deemed extremist. Carson, who has polled a close second to Trump, recently drew fire from activists for saying an American Muslim is not fit to be president.

The rhetoric contributed to several disturbing incidents, Robbins said, including the alleged knife attack against a man in Brooklyn, New York, for speaking Arabic, and the assault on an Indiana woman whose assailant yelled “white power” and railed against a Muslim takeover in the U.S.