Amid a national climate of tension and fear surrounding Islam in the United States, vandals reportedly spray painted signs outside of a Florida Islamic center Wednesday early morning with anti-Muslim messages.
“F*** Islam,” the vandals wrote in all caps on the Alamin Center in Palm Beach. “F*** ISIS.”
Officials told local news outlets that they were investigating the incident and the Council on American-Islamic Relations noted that there was a car that drove up to the signs shortly before 1 a.m. with individuals who exited and spray painted the words.
“The hate speech and rhetoric that has come along this presidential campaign is fueling this type of crime that endangers not only the Muslim community but the Florida community in general,” Wilfred Amr Ruiz, the communications manager for the Florida branch of CAIR, said. “It is not an isolated incident. It needs to be taken very seriously. It is happening in the northern part of the state and the southern part of the state. The Gulf coast and Atlantic coast and the Orlando area. Unfortunately, our community is being held captive of (anti-Islamic) rhetoric.”
Anti-Islamic sentiment has been on the rise recently in the United States after devastating terrorist attacks in Orlando, San Bernardino, California, and elsewhere have shaken the country and as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has sought to villainize Muslim immigrants.
The U.S. has experienced the highest rates of hate crimes recently going back to the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The elevated levels of hate crime have alarmed hate crime scholars and law enforcement officials who have noted hundreds of instances of the attacks. Attackers have lit mosques on fire, assaulted Muslims, shot Muslims and threatened them. Experts say that the divisive language on the campaign trail, including a call for a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States, has played a big role in those crimes.