A Sheepshead Bay mosque was vandalized with graffiti reading “Death 2 Palestine” on one of the most important holidays of the Islamic calendar.
The graffiti, written in blue spray paint was spotted at the entrance of Tayba Islamic Center on Coney Island Avenue Thursday by congregants coming in for morning prayers on Eid, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide.
Cops responded to a 911 call for criminal mischief at the address at 6:46 am and a Police Department spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper that the agency’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. No suspects have been identified, though the Department says it will be looking at security cameras in the vicinity on Coney Island Avenue.
The incident comes not only on Eid, but also amid high, escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine that has left 84 Palestinians and seven Israelis dead, and many others injured or displaced.
Usman Khalid, a chaplain who works with Tayba and other Muslim communities in Brooklyn, believes the content of the message, along with it being placed on Eid and amidst the conflict in Israel and Palestine, makes the act deliberate.
“It was 100 percent intentional, and it was done to incite either fear or hate amongst the community,” he said.
Vandalism against houses of worship was troublingly common throughout the Trump era but declined somewhat during the pandemic, Khalid said, owing to the fact that everyone was indoors and services moved online.
Nonetheless, during Ramadan, the month of fasting and piety that ends with Eid, the chaplain said that people would drive by and shout Islamophobic profanities at Tayba congregants — something, he said, New York City’s Muslim community is all too familiar with.
“We’re in a pandemic, so religious places were closed and people weren’t going out,” Khalid said. “But the agenda is still there, the hate people are spreading is still there. And it’s not getting any less.”
He also criticized this year’s mayoral candidates, specifically Borough President Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, for abandoning the community in favor of political expediency, noting tweets of support for Israel posted by the two in the wake of Israeli airstrikes against Gaza and subsequent Hamas rocket launches.
“We’re not getting any kind of support from local politics or government at all,” Khalid said. “These mayoral candidates are running, saying we support the Muslim community, then they turn around and do the opposite, they put up tweets against the Muslim community, against Palestine, against everything we stand for. They’re afraid of the backlash they’re gonna get.”
Adams on Wednesday lost the endorsement of the Muslim Action Network, a prominent, wide-ranging community organization, in response to his tweet.
As of Thursday afternoon, neither candidate had made a statement about the incident at Tayba Islamic Center.
On Twitter, Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced the act, and called for anyone with information to come forward.
“To call this vile is an understatement,” Hizzoner wrote. “Eid is a moment to celebrate peace, community and family. An attack on that is an attack on all New Yorkers.”
The graffiti was covered up Thursday afternoon.
“We have covered up this hateful message and reclaimed the wall of this mosque,” said Ali Najmi, an attorney, in a tweet. “We are calling on the NYPD and our elected officials to ensure a swift and robust investigation is conducted immediately to find these vandals.”
We have covered up this hateful message and reclaimed the wall of this mosque. We are calling on the NYPD and our elected officials to ensure a swift and robust investigation is conducted immediately to find these vandals. @RepYvetteClarke @NYSenatorFelder @SteveCym @NYPD61Pct https://t.co/qkWz26iwHF pic.twitter.com/NylM6iTrEC
— Ali Najmi (@Ali_Najmi) May 13, 2021
Update (2:50 pm): This story has been updated to reflect that the graffiti has been covered up.