Early Wednesday, another Palm Beach County mosque was vandalized. It’s just the latest anti-Muslim hate crime to hit Florida – and South Florida. But perpetrators now face more serious punishment.
Surveillance video shows someone spray-painting hate profanity – "F--- Islam," among others – on signs outside the Al Amin Islamic Center in Boynton Beach shortly after midnight Wednesday.
Last December a mosque in North Palm Beach had its windows shattered. In September a Fort Pierce mosque was torched by an alleged arsonist. No one was hurt; but that same mosque was the scene of an alleged hate assault on a Muslim in July.
Muslim leaders in Florida blame the current, pre-presidential election political environment.
“We are living in times in Florida where we see [anti-Muslim] hate incidents in the Panhandle, Miami-Dade, the Atlantic coast, the Gulf coast, in Central Florida," says Wilfredo Ruiz, Florida spokesman for the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "They are specially fueled by inflammatory Islamophobic rhetoric that politicians like Donald Trump have embraced.”
Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has called for keeping Muslims from entering the U.S. and registering those who are in the country.
But Florida prosecutors can now add hate crime charges to these offenses, which carry heavier sentences. The man accused in the July Fort Pierce attack faces life in prison as a result.
“It sends a message to any hater that when somebody attacks a mosque, a synagogue, a church, they’re attacking our Constitutional liberties and rights,” says Ruiz.
Boynton Beach rabbis and pastors have voiced support this week for the Al Amin mosque.