Around 6 a.m. Thursday, three worshipers at the Islamic School of Miami noticed something suspicious — a ceramic skull laid out on top of the mosque’s main entrance sign.
Also left on the sign was a case of Ensure, a book signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton and a T-shirt that said Miami on it — along with other items.
“There were two bouquets of flowers — the ones you’d take to a gravesite,” said Naveed Anjum, chairman of the mosque, located in West Kendall.
He said more objects were found Thursday at a difference entryway, including a cable cutter, a can of light green spray paint — vandals had defaced a metal gate with that same color of paint — a Bible and two hymnals. Inside the mosque: a wooden cross with American flag sunglasses was left on a donation box.
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As hundreds arrived for a 6:15 a.m. prayer service, police were called to the scene. By the time police left, hundreds more worshipers were filing in for the 8:15 a.m. service for Eid al-Adha, the holiday known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to show his devotion to God.
“This is not the first time it happened,” said Anjum, who called the incident “a hideous, cowardly act.” On Sept. 11, a computer bag filled with books supporting the terrorist group ISIS and cable wire were left at the property, he said.
The FBI, Miami-Dade police and the U.S. attorney’s office are investigating.
“The U.S. Department of Justice and our local law enforcement partners take all potential threats and acts of intimidation against places of worship seriously, and we will work vigilantly to protect these institutions in our community,” said Sarah Schall, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice of the Southern District of Florida, via email.
Mohammad Shakir, executive director of the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board, said “all of the election rhetoric” about Islam may be a factor. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson recently came under fire after saying he doesn’t believe a Muslim should be elected to the White House. And Donald Trump was criticized for not correcting a man at a New Hampshire town hall meeting who derided American Muslims.
Said Shabbir Motorwala, a board member of the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations: “We cannot live in fear. We love our country as much as anybody else. We are as much a part of the United States as anybody else.”