CAIR Demands Investigation of Vandalism During Texas Community Ramadan Iftar

The Austin chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called on authorities to begin an investigation after signs for a community iftar were defaced with anti-Muslim remarks.

On May 25, community organization Muslim Space was hosting its second annual iftar — a traditional meal to end the daily Ramadan fast — at the Colony Amenity Center in a gated community in Bastrop, Texas when organizers found the defaced sign. Muslim Space Executive Director Shadia Igram told The North Star that she saw the group’s directional sign had been defaced on both sides.

“It was obviously targeted for religious reasons,” Igram said. She said that Muslim Space met with the homeowners’ association (HOA) of the Colony and learned some important information, though she would not disclose what information was shared. Igram added that she has reached out to the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office and plans to file a report on May 29.

“It is truly unfortunate that while inside, Muslim Space created an inclusive opportunity for a community to come together in solidarity, and outside, at least one person chose to act out of hate,” said CAIR-Austin Executive Director Maira Sheikh said in a statement.

Sheikh continued, “It is disturbing to consider that Islamophobes have become so emboldened as to vandalize a sign outside an event because they see the word ‘Muslim.’ We urge law enforcement to treat this as a possible hate crime and step up efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.” In the joint statement with CAIR-Austin, Igram said the incident was “an expression of misguided information and ignorance.” She said the act of vandalism cannot be taken back and hopes that the person responsible will come forward.

“Muslim Space strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all in our community and we extend an invitation to anyone who wishes to learn more about Islam or the work we do,” Igram said. “Muslims have the right to peacefully live their lives in the open, free of threats, and we truly appreciate the overwhelming support of our countless friends and allies.”

The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. According to CAIR, the May 25 incident follows an arson attempt and a string of vandalisms which targeted a North Austin mosque and a Muslim-owned business.

On April 23, a hooded individual was caught on security footage pouring gasoline on the side of the North Austin Muslim Community Center and attempting to start a fire. The suspect, who appeared to be a white or Hispanic man wearing a Nike sweatshirt and a black hoodie underneath to conceal his face, was on the mosque’s property for at least 20 minutes. Security footage caught the suspect pouring liquid along a fence, lighting a wadded up paper on fire, and trying to set the fence on fire.

Muslim Americans have experienced an increase in discrimination and attacks following the events of September 11, 2001. A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center showed that 75 percent of respondents believed there was significant discrimination against Muslims in the US.

Forty-eight percent of respondents also reported experiencing at least one incident of discrimination in the previous 12 months. This represented a slight uptick from 2007 (40 percent) and 2011 (43 percent), Pew noted. Nearly one in five respondents said they had been called an offensive name or singled out by airport airport security, while one in 10 said they had been singled out by law enforcement.

Less than a week before the vandalism incident at the Muslim Space iftar, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) spoke at the city of Austin’s fourth annual iftar dinner on May 18. Omar, who has been accused of anti-Semitism and received death threats, called for unity among all religions. She was joined by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who is Jewish, at the event.

“My message to you is not to let the hate around us divide us. That we show up with love, because ultimately, love trumps hate,” Omar said, according to Fox 7 Austin. She added, “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same bigoted coin.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.