Police search for vandal who left bacon at Florida mosque

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 04, 2016 7:01 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Florida police were trying on Monday to identify a man with a shaved head and wearing camouflage clothing who was caught on surveillance camera breaking windows, cameras and lights with a machete at a mosque and leaving bacon on the doorstep.

The footage showed the man entering the carport of the Masjid Al-Munin mosque in Titusville near Cape Canaveral in central Florida late Friday night and vandalizing it, Titusville police spokeswoman Amy Matthews said.

It was the third time in less than a month that vandals have left pork products at mosques in the United States, said the civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has called for state and federal investigations.

Muslims are prohibited from consuming pork products, and hate groups advocate using pigs or pork to try to desecrate mosques, according to CAIR.

The man, who also had a tattoo on his arm, appeared from the video to be acting alone, said Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida which oversees that mosque and nine others.

Musri said the incident was the first of its kind against Muslims in the 40 years they have been in Titusville.

Vandalism against Muslims has risen since attacks by Islamist militants on civilians in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Musri said.

He said the incidents have been further stoked by anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

"These statements legitimize the thoughts of people who are radical," Musri said. "They feel these leaders are agreeing with them, so it's becoming more acceptable for them to say so, to do so."

CAIR said cases of damage, destruction, and vandalism of mosques, and intimidation attempts reached a record high in 2015 since the organization began tallying incidents in 2009.

At the end of December, vandals in Las Vegas wrapped bacon around door handles of the Masjid-e-Tawheed mosque, CAIR said.

The FBI has opened an investigation into a pig's head thrown on Dec. 6 from a pickup truck at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in Philadelphia.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Grant McCool)