Muslim community responds to hate speech left on Monroe mosque
The profanity sprayed onto Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Seattle’s mosque just outside Monroe was painted over early Saturday morning by an anonymous resident. The fresh coat nearly matches the shade of the original gray exterior.
Local chapter president Irfan Chaudhry told attendees of the ad hoc Coffee, Cake and True Islam event held Sunday afternoon it was accomplished by a good Samaritan. He said he doesn’t believe the act of vandalism that occurred last week at 23515 Old Owen Road is representative of Monroe or Snohomish County as whole.
Volunteers who run the Ahmadiyya’s weekly food bank found “F*** U” written on the building in black graffiti on Friday morning. They covered up other words spray painted in yellow, which made it unreadable.
The work could be seen from Old Owen Road. Chaudhry said the plan is to print “Love for all, Hatred for none” where the message was drawn; it’s the international motto for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The act occurred on the heels of a Muslims for Life blood drive the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community holds every year around 9/11 to honor the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 2001 terror attack.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Seattle’s director of public affairs Alam Ali says the local chapter isn’t seeking punishment for the person who spray painted its Monroe mosque.
“Right now, we’re still processing,” he said. “The main message we’re having is we’re not looking to prosecute. We’re looking to communicate.”
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office reports the vandalism is believed to have taken place between 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10, and 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15. Anyone with information is asked to call the anonymous tip line at 425-388-3845.
“We will not tolerate any crimes motivated by prejudice in Snohomish County,” said Sheriff Ty Trenary in a Friday news release. “We are asking for the public’s help to find who committed this hateful act and so we can bring them to justice.”
Ali said it’s possible the vandalism was committed by youths or someone else randomly targeting the building.
“We can’t judge the intent of someone else,” he said, “but we know how this makes us feel.”
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said no matter what the motivation the community should remain vigilant. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been a great addition to the area, he said.
The congregation’s building has served different purposes over the last 1 1/2 years. It had also functioned as a chapel, which was also vandalized while open, Somers said. He said it is important to reiterate that the Muslim community is welcome now, especially with tensions running so high throughout the country. He said he does not know of any other mosques in the county.
Evelyn Correa and Glenn Berkwitt drove from Seattle to show their support on Sunday.
Berkwitt said he saw the vandalism as potentially symptomatic of “a lot of other hatred getting expressed lately.” Correa said she came to reinforce the idea that everyone has a right to practice their religion.
Ali said this was the first instance of vandalism since the mosque opened. Chaudhry said he was not concerned a situation like this would occur when the community moved in.
Monroe Councilmember Jim Kamp also spoke to the Coffee, Cake and Islam attendees.
“This is not Monroe, this is not the hard working people of Monroe — this is something else,” he said. “We welcomed you when you came, and we welcome you now.”
The local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has roughly 400 members. The decision to move 1 1/2 years ago was made once it became clear the previous center in Lynnwood was too small for the growing membership.
Ali previously told the Monitor when the congregation saw the building on Old Owen Road, it “fell in love with it.” The more than $1 million purchase was paid for out of pocket through Ahmadiyya Muslim Community donations. The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam has nearly 70 branches nationwide.
Ali said the Muslim community received a warm welcome from the mayor and city council, and has held many community events where people have come to learn about Islam.
“We do notice that there are some folks that are a little bit more apprehensive,” he said, adding some people are just not familiar with Islam. “People are afraid of what they don’t know and they’re afraid to ask.”
The religion is considered a rejuvenation of the faith founded by the Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889. The sect does not promote a violent jihad (holy war), or caliphate (Islamic state), rejects all forms of terrorism, and advocates for freedom of conscience, religion and speech. The main text is the Quran.
Often members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community direct the inquiring public to trueislam.com to find out about the campaign that provides information on the distinct differences between their Islam and the Islam of violent extremists.
Monroe resident Vicki Perea-Mcintyre said she hopes the community will keep coming together, but not under the same circumstances in the future. She said she came out Sunday to stand up for what is right, and back up the people who back up her community.
“They have been so good to us,” she said.
Perea-Mcintyre volunteers at Take the Next Step in Monroe. She said members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community regularly bring in food donations. They also make snacks for the nonprofit’s younger clients, she said.
Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas said when he received the email Friday about the vandalism he alerted Monroe Police Chief Tim Quenzer and new city administrator Deborah Knight, who drove up to the site. He said he had a few of his own reasons to attend Sunday’s event.
“To be here, to be supportive of our brothers and sisters of our community, to underscore what we are,” he said. “To extend a hand and a prayer of support.”