In the wake of vandalism of the Louisville Islamic Center with graffitied hate speech, supporters of the mosque gathered Thursday morning to send a message that people of all faiths condemn the crime and will rally behind its victims.
Mayor Greg Fischer addressed the media with members of the mosque and various other city and faith leaders surrounding him, calling Wednesday evening’s vandalism “an act of ignorance” that “was like a punch in the gut.”
“An act like this here last night is an affront to everyone in our community,” said Fischer. “It is not just an act against one faith, the Muslim faith. It is an act against Buddhist, Christians, Jews, all faiths, as well. An act like this will not be tolerated in our community, certainly from a moral standpoint, but also a legal standpoint.”
The mosque was spray painted at some point in the early evening Wednesday, using both obscure references to Muslims and current religious tensions in France. The vandals also used several stars of David and ominously painted over a watch that was hung from their gas line.
However, Dr. Muhammad Babar of the Louisville Islamic Center showed compassion toward the perpetrators, saying “we hold no grudge against the individual or individuals who violated the sanctity of this sacred place and have nothing but forgiveness and prayers for them.” He also stated they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.
As was mentioned by several speakers, the Louisville Islamic Center has been an active member of community projects and promoters of peace, being one of the first to help the Henryville, Ind., tornado victims, providing lunches to first responders on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last week, and forcefully denouncing ISIS last year.
“Today we are here standing together once again to denounce intolerance and hatred of all kind in whatever shape and form it is,” said Babar. “Extremists have only one common identity and a theme to divide the majority of peace-loving people to further their agenda.”
Matt Goldberg of the Jewish Community of Louisville spoke about the close bond they have formed with the Muslim community in the city, calling the use of Jewish symbols in the vandalism “an affront to Judsiam.”
“We are united together — the Jewish community, the Muslim community, the entire interfaith community of Louisville — and this will bring us closer together,” said Goldberg. “So my message is to the perpetrator: We win and you lose.”
Martin Brooks of Peace Catalyst International added that “the people that would do things like this on this wall probably don’t know any muslims. They probably are living in some echo chamber of fear.”
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said they are currently supporting the investigation into the crime by the Indian Hills Police Department, adding that “I’ve also been told that the FBI is looking at this as a hate crime, as well.”
The community is invited to help clean graffiti off the mosque — located at 4007 River Road — on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Fischer said the city would “use this as a showcase for how a community responds to acts of extremism and acts of hatred.”
Babar even extended an invitation to any individuals who committed the crime.
“Whoever did this act, we would like to invite him or the group of people if they are involved, to join us in the clean-up tomorrow with the community,” said Babar. “That will show the world that we make mistakes in life, but we cannot let those mistakes surround us for the rest of our lives. So this is a great opportunity, they should just come forward, help us clean up, and we all will move on as one community, as one nation, and as one brotherhood.”