Intelligence document: U.S. Muslim community may be target of hate crimes

By Chris Zawistowski, CBS Investigates Intern

Tensions stemming from the death of Osama Bin Laden and uprisings throughout the Middle East may result in attacks on Muslim-based groups in the United States, according to an advisory from the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center.

The New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center wrote in the advisory that it has no specific information regarding a credible threat against religious organizations or facilities at this time.

However, several recent crimes against Muslim facilities and organizations around the country have put law enforcement officials on the lookout for further incidents.

This past Saturday, at least three masked men---caught on surveillance video---attempted to burn down the Madrasah Islamiah Mosque in Southwest Houston, Texas, igniting several prayer rugs in the main prayer room.

No injuries were reported in the suspected arson attempt and there was no significant damage to the building, according to a spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department.

The Houston Fire Department is investigating the crime but the spokesperson said there are "no indicators as this point to suggest the incident was a hate crime."

The FBI and ATF are also monitoring the investigation but are not actively involved.

A mosque in Shreveport, La., was vandalized on May 9 when pork-which is considered unclean by Muslims-was discovered on the door handles of the building. Additionally, derogatory phrases like "Osama today, Islam tomorrow" were spray-painted on a mosque in Portland, Maine on May 2.

And in New Jersey, two incidents on May 5 have law enforcement officials on alert for other incidents. The Paterson-based American Arab Forum received a threatening phone call from an unknown individual and in Atlantic City a Koran was removed from a mosque and found in the trash several days later.

With one of the fastest growing Arab populations in the United States and tensions rising since the death of Bin Laden, the advisory tells law enforcement officials and community leaders throughout the state to "maintain vigilance and recognize behaviors indicating potential extremist activity."

Police and other law enforcement officials are warned to be on look out for potential indicators of criminal activity, such as an increase in threats from unidentified sources, surveillance of facilities, security posts, and entry/exit points, and unattended backpacks, briefcases or other items.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment since the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Hooper said that international events have sparked incidents against Muslims in the past but finds it strange that the death of Osama Bin Laden would elicit such negative reactions from many across the nation.

"I guess any kind of international event brings out the worst in some people," he said. "It's quite disturbing."

  • Emily Rand

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