The photocopied letter sent to several California mosques. Photo: California American-Islamic Relations Twitter
Several California mosques, including the Long Beach Islamic Center, were sent a threatening letter last week by a group praising president-elect Donald Trump.
The photocopied letter was addressed to the “children of Satan” and claimed that Trump was the “new sheriff in town” and would do to muslims “what Hitler did to the jews.” It recommended that all muslims pack up their bags and "get out of Dodge." The letter was signed by an anonymous group calling itself “Americans for a Better Way” and was sent to at least five California mosques as of Monday.
Those locations receiving the letter include the Islamic Center in Long Beach, the Islamic Center of Claremont and the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose as well as another location in Savannah, Georgia according to the Center for American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) national office.
Tarek Mohamed, the chairman of the Long Beach Islamic Center, said that he received the letter last Friday. He noted that while he had received a previous letter in the mail a few months ago—one that he threw away so to not spread fear through the community—this one was different. Upon learning that other centers and mosques across the state had been sent identical letters he felt compelled to report it to law enforcement as well as to his community members.
“Two months ago when I received the letter written in pencil I thought it was a joke, thought somebody was sick so I threw it in the trashcan,” Mohamed said. “I told our community about it to increase the alert and for people to watch out for what’s going to happen and to be careful about what’s going on.”
Reports of the hate mail come less than two weeks after local leaders, led by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, rallied outside the Long Beach Islamic Center to show solidarity with the muslim community in the city. Garcia took to Twitter Sunday morning to address the reports of the center being among those that received the anonymous letter.
“The Long Beach Community will continue to support our Muslim American neighbors,” Garcia wrote. “These attacks and letters need to stop.”
In response to the mosques receiving the threats the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced a joint press conference that will be held with local leaders from the muslim community. The conference is scheduled for noon at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown.
“I so appreciate this conference because it gives us a feeling that our authorities are serious about it and actually give a positive positive message to our community,” Mohamed said.
A spokesperson from the Long Beach Police Department said that it reached out to a mosque in Long Beach to determine if it had received the same letter but was unable to contact anyone at the location. They noted that the Long Beach Islamic Center is under the jurisdiction of the Signal Hill Police Department but encouraged the community speak out if they notice anything. The location in Long Beach had not received any calls for service in the last week.
“As a reminder, we encourage all Long Beach residents and visitors: if you See Something, Say Something,” a department spokesperson said in an email. “Together through awareness and reporting, we can keep Long Beach a safe place for everyone.”
Earlier this month the FBI released its annual hate crime report and the bureau’s figures revealed that over the course of the last year muslims had seen the greatest increase of reported hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. The report showed a 67 percent increase in hate crimes in 2015 with muslims representing nearly 20 percent of all victims of single-bias incidents recorded last year.
Additionally, CAIR has seen a spike of incidents targeting Muslim-Americans and other minority groups since the election. In a statement denouncing the letters sent to the California mosques CAIR said that over 100 anti-muslim incidents have occurred since November 8.
Mohamed said that fears have been heightened more than ever since the November 8 election that saw Donald Trump become the president-elect of the United States. During the primary and general election campaign Trump and his surrogates supported the idea of banning all muslim immigrants from entering the country if they hail from countries where terrorist groups are active and on multiple occasions said that a registry of muslim citizens could be implemented. One Trump surrogate implied that internment camps used to detain Japanese citizens during World War II could also be an option for muslims.
Mohamed implored the president-elect to come out with a firm message denouncing these acts of hate that have transpired since election night but noted that Trump’s campaign rhetoric combined with controversial appointments to his cabinet and senior advisory positions have only helped to stoke the flames of concern in the muslim community as well as many other minority groups.
“All that is not only statements, it’s the following of those statements with actions,” Mohamed said. “This actually gives message after message that Mr. Trump is going to go forward with his plan and his strategy among the muslim community and among other minority communities.”