RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin paid a visit to a recently vandalized mosque on an important Muslim holiday. There, Youngkin condemned the acts of violence and committed to a partnership.
Youngkin’s tour comes as the West End Islamic Center in Glen Allen celebrates Eid, which marks the end of a 30-day fast. It follows two reports of vandalism at the center in less than one year.
“I think step one is to condemn it,” Youngkin said. “This is a moment for us to recognize across the Commonwealth and across the country that there is no place for religious persecution, there is no place for us to condemn people because of their faith. America was in fact founded on a basic principle of being able to express your religious beliefs.”
The damage at the mosque and community center, which remains under construction, was most recently reported to Henrico Police on April 16 during the holy month of Ramadan. Officers observed a shattered window and flipped tables in the space used for prayer.
Syed Perwez, treasurer for the center’s board of trustees, said graffiti depicting a middle finger was left on the floor. He said that’s now covered up but the pain of the attack stays with the community.
“It definitely felt like a hate crime,” Perwez said. “This is the one place you don’t expect that to happen is a place of peace and worship and reflection and then you see the destruction and damage,”
At this time, Henrico Police said they’re not investigating the incident as a hate crime but they have increased patrols in the area.
Meanwhile, donations have allowed the mosque to install new cameras and finish repairs.
During the visit, Youngkin discussed ways to increase law enforcement training statewide. Faith leaders also asked him for more help educating the community about the rise of Islamophobia.
Imtiaz Sattar, chairman of the center’s board of trustees called this their greatest problem.
“Give the message to whoever did that to come over, meet us, have a meal with us, sit with us and talk to us. We accept everyone,” Sattar said. “Love is more stronger than hate.”
Henrico Police say their investigation remains active.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Henrico Police at 804-501-5000, Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000, or submit tips online at p3TIPS.com.