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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Prayers to resume after anti-Muslim vandalism at club

Ramadan prayers will continue at the Bosnia Herzegovina Heritage Association through July 17,  following the discovery of the message “Death to Islam” spray painted on the building’s exterior this weekend.

“We did take a few days off, while the dust settled, so to speak,” said Admir Rasic, a member of the Spokane Bosnian and Muslim communities who was present at the club, along with about 25 other people, on July 4 when the graffiti was discovered. “We are back here, and we invite the whole community. Everyone is welcome here.”

Spokane police said Thursday the case had been assigned to its Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that photographs of the message were taken by investigators. Rasic said the message was written between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on the building, which also serves as a warehouse. The club and the Washington Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking anyone with information to contact the FBI field office in Seattle at (206) 622-0460.

The council issued  a formal letter to U.S. District Attorney Mike Ormsby on Tuesday asking for federal involvement in the case. The group says the hate speech “fits a pattern of increased targeting of persons and property associated with Islam and the American Muslim Community.”

But the message at a news conference held at the center Thursday morning was one of inclusion. Several leaders of area faith groups spoke, representing the Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic and Baptist faiths. All condemned the message of the graffiti and said it was important for Christians, Muslims and members of all religions to support each other against hate.

“We are together in our love for God, and our love for our neighbor, and we must keep that up,” said the Rev. Martin Wells, bishop of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Imam Yasser Shahin visited the Bosnian center to break his Ramadan fast on July 4, he said. It was the only time he had visited the center during the holy month because of his obligations at the Spokane Islamic Center. Shahin said he felt guilt that his appearance, with his wife, in traditional Muslim garb may have incited the spray painted message.

Admir Rasic’s wife, Azra, said the community and law enforcement needs to send a clear message that this speech won’t be tolerated.

“It really shook you,” Azra Rasic said of seeing the graffiti, which has since been covered by the landlord. “I worried for my daughter, and for her future.”

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