Local police in the city of Reno, Nevada are investigating a recent attack on worshippers outside an area mosque Friday as a hate crime attack.
Shortly after evening prayers at the Northern Nevada Muslim Community Center, mosque officials say two Muslims were attacked by several young assailants, one of whom was carrying a baseball bat. One victim is reportedly in serious condition with head injuries at an area hospital, and a second victim suffered a broken arm.
A member from a nearby church was able to stop the attack and scare the assailants away.
Mosque representatives reportedly said they received two phone threats prior to the attack. The caller, who allegedly said the mosque teaches "filth," has been picked up for questioning by the police.
Some believe the recent negative attention given to Muslims in the media could have triggered the attack.
"We tend to see this type of attack whenever there is an issue or event that leads to stereotyping of Islam and Muslims," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR's Los Angeles office.
Ayloush maintains that recent tensions in the Middle East and the controversy over actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan could motivate those who already harbor prejudices against Muslims.
This is just the latest incident in a series of attacks on the North American Muslim community. Earlier this year vandals attacked a Winnipeg, Canada mosque, smearing the front of the mosque with animal feces, eggs and white paint. Garbage was also thrown in the area of the mosque. The vandalism in Winnipeg followed a suspicious fire gutted the lobby of a British Columbia mosque in November of last year. Police told the CBC that they are following up witness reports of a van speeding away from the scene just before an explosion was heard. Attacks on other mosques and Islamic centers have occurred across North America.
Just recently, vandals targeted the Islamic Center of Southern California. In June of last year, a gunman attacked a Memphis, Tenn., Islamic center as worshipers gathered for morning prayers. In May of 1999, a would-be terrorist was arrested after fleeing from the area of a mosque near Denver, Colo. The suspect's car was found to contain loaded weapons and bomb-making materials.
As early as 1994, a nearly completed mosque in Yuba City, Calif., burned to the ground in what was ruled an arson attack. In 1995, arson destroyed a Springfield, Ill., Islamic center. And in 1996, a suspect was charged for involvement in an arson attack on a Greenville, S.C., mosque. Acts of mosque vandalism have occurred in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia. In 1999, an arson attack severely damaged a Minneapolis, Minn., mosque.
The Washington office for the Council on American Islamic Relations is asking other Muslim communities to increase security measures for Islamic houses of worship.