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February 27, 2023

West Oak Lane mosque vandalized by man who spray-painted 'Jesus Christ' on its walls

Religious leaders from several faiths condemned the incident at The Masjidullah Center for Human Excellence

Investigations Vandalism
Mosque Vandalism @masjidullah/Facebook

Police are investigating a case of vandalism at the Masjidullah Center for Human Excellence, a mosque in West Oak Lane. Security cameras caught a man spray-painting religious phrases and symbols on the mosque's exterior.

Philadelphia police are seeking to identify a man who spray-painted religious symbols and phrases on the exterior walls of Masjidullah Center for Human Excellence, a mosque in West Oak Lane, on Friday night. 

The mosque's security footage shows a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a green baseball cap vandalizing the building at 7401 Limekiln Pike, police said. The name "Jesus Christ" was spray-painted several times; the vandal also painted a Star of David with an "X" through it, according to images posted to the mosque's Instagram account.

Philadelphia's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights an advocacy group, urged police to investigate the vandalism as a possible hate crime. Ahmet Tekelioglu, executive director of CAIR-Philadelphia, told the Inquirer that the incident joins a "growing list of anti-Islamic episodes" in Pennsylvania in recent years. 

"We condemn this act of vandalism and urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to apprehend the perpetrator and to determine whether there was a bias motive for the incident," said Mohammed Zubairu, president of CAIR-Philadelphia and a Masjidullah member. "All Americans should feel safe from harassment or intimidation at their houses of worship." 

Detectives are investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made, police said. 

Local religious leaders, including Pastor Kevin Brown at The Perfecting Church in Sewell, Gloucester County and Rabbi Jill Maderer, Rabbi Eli Freedman and Cantor Brad Hyman of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Spring Garden, joined Masjidullah in solidarity Sunday, releasing a joint statement calling for peace and understanding. 

"As three distinct faith communities who work together for common understanding, we stand together once again in the face of bigotry and hate," the statement said. "Each of our traditions call us to love and know one another. And each of our traditions call us to guard and protect one another as a way of living out our faith in God." 

This is the second time in recent years that Masjidullah has been subject to vandalism. In 2019, a man was caught on surveillance cameras throwing rocks at the mosque and smashing its glass windows, causing up to $400 in damages. 

In 2015, a severed pig's head was left outside the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society's building in Olde Kensington, prompting a bias crime investigation. 

CAIR track reports of anti-Islamic sentiments and acts. The organization has recorded more than 6,720 complaints involving workplace discrimination, bias incidents, school incidents and issues with immigration and travel. 

Anyone with information regarding the vandalism at Masjidullah is urged to contact Philadelphia police at (215) 686-8477.