REDMOND, Wash. – For the second time in one month, worshipers at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) arrived to find their sign destroyed by vandals. The metal sign that sat underneath an American flag was torn in two, only 8 days after it had been re-installed.
“We take this very seriously, this is now the second time that this sign has been vandalized at a place of worship in Redmond,” said Becky Range, with Redmond Police. “This really bothers us.”
“It sits below an American flag, so somebody taking a crowbar or something like that to our sign and destroying that sign is an attempt to destroy what our community stands for, what our shared American values stand for,” said Aneelah Afzali, Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network, an outreach effort through MAPS.
Redmond police received the call at 7:45 on Saturday morning. Worshipers were preparing for a gingerbread decorating event for the community when they saw the sign.
“You hear about this kind of thing happening all over the world, but it becomes personal when it happens in your community,” said Jim Lyon, standing outside the mosque. Lyon has lived in Redmond for 15 years and said learning of the second attack on MAPS hit him hard. Not because he is a Muslim, but rather an American.
“When your neighbor is attacked, you come show support, so that is why I came,” he said. Lyon went inside the mosque to share in his disappointment when he was met by dozens of smiling children building gingerbread houses alongside other community members and even Redmond police officers.
“Their ability to carry on in the face of this, to return the love, to invite the neighbors in, that impresses me deeply. It makes me proud to be a part of a community that includes this facility,” he said.
“We welcome the support and solidarity from the greater community,” said Afzali. “We recognize that we are loved, and we love our community for that as well.”
A new sign will be put back underneath the American flag for the third time, she said. In the meantime, the handprints that were made in the cement base by community members from across the Seattle area remain. It’s a testament to the love that Afzali said they are receiving in light of the vandalism.
“The actions of an individual will not overshadow the tremendous outpouring of beautiful support that we have seen in the community,” she said.
Police said they have surveillance video of a lone man vandalizing the sign and are following leads.