Man defaces mosque with anti-Islam graffiti ‘to get a reaction,’ Minnesota cops say
BY MIKE STUNSON
A tip from a Walmart employee led to the arrest of a man accused of vandalizing a mosque during Ramadan, Minnesota police say.
The Moorhead/Fargo Islamic Community Center was vandalized with graffiti that included phrases such as “Death to Islam” and “Go to hell,” according to a criminal complaint against Benjamin Enderle. The 22-year-old suspect is also accused of spray painting a swastika on the sidewalk and the phrase “women can’t vote” on the women’s entrance to the center.
Police released surveillance photos and video of the suspect after the April 25 incident. They asked for help identifying the culprit, showing images of a man wearing a camouflage jacket and a dark ski mask.
Enderle was identified from the footage outside the center as well video from a Walmart nearby, where he was shown purchasing red spray paint a day before the incident, police say.
A Walmart employee called police when he examined purchase records and surveillance. The worker saw Enderle wearing the same jacket in the store as seen in the photo shared by police, according to WCCO.
Police took Enderle into custody Tuesday and he told them he had spray painted the center, saying “he did it as a joke,” according to police.
“(Enderle) stated he did it to get a reaction from the community and the media,” court documents show. “(Enderle) stated that he acted alone and did not have any help from his roommate.”
Enderle stated he doesn’t “hate them,” but the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called upon authorities to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.
“Our state’s lawmakers must also show that they take growing hate crimes seriously by passing legislation to update how hate incidents are reported and handled,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said.
Police charged Enderle with felony harassment with bias and felony criminal damage to property. The vice president of the Islamic center, Ademola Hammed, told the Star Tribune the mosque members have peacefully coexisted within the community for four years but they are “disturbed” at the vandalism.
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carson issued a statement following the act of vandalism and called upon the community to help clean up the center.
“Hate has no home in Moorhead,” she said. “These images are horrifying to view, but we must view them to bear witness and understand the magnitude and depth of how these hate filled words impact those in our community. This is unacceptable behavior and is not okay.”
Video shared on Facebook by Wess Philome shows the community chipping in to help clean the center. Philome called the results “beyond what anyone could have imagined.”
Before Enderle’s arrest, mayors of three nearby North Dakota cities — West Fargo, Fargo and Horace — and the mayor of Dilworth, Minnesota, issued a joint statement condemning the vandalism.
“Those criminal actions are completely contradictory to the values of tolerance, respect and acceptance we embrace in all of our communities,” the statement read. “The vandalism was a heinous act of hate attacking the center during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.”
Source: The Herald
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