Colorado police searching for mosque vandal

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Colorado police are searching for the vandal who defaced a new sign outside of a Grand Junction mosque this week.

Two Rivers Mosque unveiled the sign, which was found covered in black paint early Wednesday, only three weeks ago. The landscaping surrounding the sign was also damaged.

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Abdelghani Essaifi, vice president of the mosque, noticed the vandalism when he arrived to the building around 7 a.m. Wednesday.

“I was not really shocked [by] what happened because I know this happens all over the United States,” Essaifi said.

The sign includes the mosque’s name in both English and Arabic.

Essaifi said that based off security camera footage, it was determined that one person spent about seven minutes vandalizing the sign and surrounding area just after 11 p.m. Tuesday.

The Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on police to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.

“Because houses of worship nationwide are increasingly targeted by hate, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this vandalism and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said CAIR-Colorado Acting Board Chair Krista Cole. “People of all faiths should be able to gather and pray without fear of intimidation or attack.”

Grand Junction police say they’re working to identify the suspect.

“Someone knows something — so we need your help to get this crime solved sooner than later,” Grand Junction Police Chief Doug Shoemaker wrote in a tweet. “There’s no room in #GJCO for this type of act.”

Essaifi said the mosque, also called the Islamic Center of Grand Junction, was showered with support after the incident.

“We’re so glad that we have such a wonderful community here,” he said. “We got a lot of help, a lot of people came in on the same day … 50 to 60 people came in and showed their support.”

He said the mosque bought and moved into the building about two years ago, but that leadership held off on putting in the sign because they wanted to see how the community would react.

“We received a lot of love, a lot of respect, a lot of understanding from them,” Essaifi said.

“They’re very happy we are taking care of the place,” he added. “We thought, ‘This is a good time to put this sign up.'”

A GoFundMe for the mosque has raised more than $4,500 to help Two Rivers Mosque buy a new sign, which Essaifi said will be installed high on the building. Leaders also hope to purchase lights to install outside. He believes having lights outside would have given authorities a better look at the suspect in this incident.

In addition to a new sign and lights, Essaifi said the mosque is considering hiring security in during Friday prayer services.