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Members of a mosque in Bothell call on FBI to help stop incidences of hate
The FBI is looking into several hate-motivated incidences occurring at the Islamic Center of Bothell during the past year, to determine if they are hate crimes.
If they find these crimes are related, the FBI will launch a formal investigation, according to Denise Langford, Public Information Officer for Bothell Police.
"Each incident, although scary, is considered isolated until proven otherwise," Langford said. "Looking at the totality of everything happening at the mosque, I can understand the fear from the congregation."
The Washington chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to the FBI asking for help after an incident last week that scared mosque board members into shutting down meetings. Mosque board members held a news conference Monday morning to alert the media and neighbors about the events.
"This grabbed the FBI's attention and they told us they would investigate," said Ayoobiu Memom, board member for the Islamic Center of Bothell. "This was one of our goals of the conference; the other goal was to alert our neighbors about what was happening and to ask the good people of Seattle to help us."
Thursday, worshipers found 10 Islamic books filled with hate messages thrown onto various parking spaces. The books found had been distributed by mosque members during a lecture held at the Bothell library.
"We cancelled our meetings that weekend out of concern for the safety of our congregation," Memom said. "Now we have resumed our meetings because we do not want these people to win; we will not be bullied."
The incidences started last year. In September, a sandwich board was vandalized with black spray paint and in early February, mosque board members found an Islamic Center of Bothell flag burned, torn and mangled on the ground.
"The fact that these past two incidences have been in close proximity of time, leads me to think they are stepping up their efforts to target us," Memom said.
Memom said the congregation does not know who is behind this.
"We have no idea who it is or why," he said. "Unfortunately hatred exits and it is ugly. There are people in this world that don't like other people simply because they are different; they are different in culture, background or color of their skin."
The mosque has been in place for four years.
"This is the first year we have ever had any issue," Memom said. "Generally we are at peace with our Bothell neighbors, but somebody has found us and thinks we are an easy target for their hatred."
Bothell police stepped up surveillance at the mosque and encourage people to report any suspicious activity immediately.
"We have no tolerance for hate crimes," Langford said. "We want to make sure everyone in our community feels safe and is able to worship, practice and learn whatever they want, wherever they want."
Memom said the mosque is also doing their part to step up surveillance around the building.
"We have put up many security cameras in our parking lot for starters and we just hope this stops," he said. "Our hope is that this stops without any violence or other issues."