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Henry County Islamic Center vandalized

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Legislators defeated a bill to raise Virginia’s grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500, leaving Virginia’s law among the nation’s strictest.

HORSEPASTURE–The Martinsville-Henry County Islamic Center has cleaned up the damage after someone vandalized the facility earlier this month.

Someone tossed a large rock through the building’s front door, breaking the glass, but didn’t go inside, Imam James A. Shabazz said. Center officials have since replaced the glass in that front door.

The vandalism was discovered about noon last Friday, as people gathered at the Islamic Center for congregational prayer, Shabazz said. He added he believes the vandalism was done during the “wee hours” of Friday morning.

“We’re not saying it was a hate crime,” Shabazz said.

He feels the vandalism was done by a “small minded, demented person with the intention of trying to enrage the Muslim community.”

In the aftermath of the incident, Shabazz said, “We have taken safety precautions,” but declined to elaborate.

Officials with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office said they’re still investigating the incident.

“At this time, we do not have any reason to believe this was anything other than vandalism,” said Major Eric Winn of the Sheriff’s Office. “We have no information that would lead us to believe it was a hate crime.”

The sheriff’s office has made no arrests and has no suspects, Winn said.

The Martinsville-Henry County Islamic Center is at 17125 A.L. Philpott Highway in the Horsepasture area.

Virginia is one of nine U.S. states that have had 11 or more incidents of vandalism or other anti-Muslim incidents since 2005. A map provided by the American Civil Liberties Union divides states into four categories: states that had one or two anti-mosque incidents, states that had three or four anti-mosque incidents, states that had five to 10 anti-mosque incidents, and states that had 11 or more anti-mosque incidents. Other states along with Virginia that had 11 or more anti-mosque incidents were Florida, New Jersey, New York Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington and California.

Out of the Virginia incidents, four took place within the last year.

In February 2017, a man broke in through an unlocked basement window at an Islamic center and stole about $1,000 from the donation collection bin. In March, a Falls Church Islamic center received a letter with the words “Kill All Muslims” written on it. Meanwhile, police in Sterling said a 17-year-old girl was assaulted and then killed after leaving the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque, which holds late night prayers during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Police have since charged a suspect in the murder. In September, officials in Farmville found the words “(expletive) God & Allah” on the wall of the Prince Edward County Islamic Center.

“In the wake of the 2015 attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, anti-Muslim sentiment has spiked,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Although these sentiments manifest themselves in many ways, attacks on mosques directly take aim at religious freedom.”

Paul Collins reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at paul.collins@martinsvillebulletin.com

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