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Leaders of the Islamic Center of Springfield say they received a threatening letter targeting Muslims on Sunday and earlier that day found charred remains of three Qurans.

The FBI confirmed an investigation into possible civil rights violations but declined to comment further.

Springfield Police also declined comment but logs of police calls confirm two incidents at the center on Sunday; one logged as “found property” and the other a “terrorist threat.”

Neither log included reference to the Muslim holy book, but two center leaders described specifically what was found and reported to police.

The anonymous letter says that Muslims “stain the earth,” and the author vows “Islam will not survive.” A copy of the letter was provided to the News-Leader by the Rev. Mark Struckhoff, executive director for the Council of Churches of the Ozarks.

At the end of the five-line typed letter is a drawing of a ram’s head with the slogan “Death to Islam!” printed below it.

“I do not understand. What are they gaining from this?” asked Wafaa Kaf, coordinator of the women’s section at the Islamic Center and one of the center’s leaders who described the charred books.

“Have they accomplished anything? Are they happy now?”

Kaf said she and fellow Muslims are frustrated with Sunday’s acts and are committed to making them public.

Kaf said the Qurans were found near the building’s entrance Sunday afternoon by a man on his way to worship at the center.

The letter was found later that day, said Jamil Saquer, board member of the Islamic Center, the second leader who confirmed the books were found.

Saquer said he and other Muslims who read the letter are concerned that whoever made the threats could become more aggressive.

Saquer said he is satisfied by the police response and does not feel the hateful sentiment is widespread in Springfield.

“We think it is a tiny segment,” he said. “They are just acting out of darkness.”

Saquer, like Kaf, is a professor at Missouri State University.

Saquer said he is worried the threat may cause Muslims to move away from Springfield.

“I’d understand,” he said. “Nobody wants to be in an unwelcoming place.”

Struckhoff, who was made aware of the threat by Kaf, said he shares the concern.

“My hope and prayer is that they are not intimidated by it and want to give up living in our community.”

Struckhoff said he took the reported threat personally. “I am concerned for my friends,” the Methodist minister said.

Struckhoff said he hopes that religious organizations in Springfield will rally behind the center and Muslims.

“I would hope that the faith community would recognize that this is an act that is in direct conflict with just about every faith principle that they claim.”

This isn’t the first reported crime against the Islamic Center, 2151 E. Division St.

On Jan. 8, worshippers were confronted with hate-filled graffiti scrawled across the walls of the building.

“You bash us in Pakistan. We bash you here,” the red spray paint said.

Other messages were sexual, including a drawing of a penis near the women’s entrance and a reference to Allah being gay.

Two days later, another act of vandalism broke off an exterior water spigot.

However, the FBI did not initiate a hate crimes investigation into those incidents.

A hate crime falls under the Civil Rights Act and would require a threat or would prohibit a person from being able to exercise his or her freedoms, said Bridget Patton, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Kansas City.

Source : News-Leader.com


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