Members of Rhode Island's Muslim community have asked to meet with police and the FBI to request heightened security at their places of worship after the sign for a mosque in North Smithfield was vandalized.
Farid Ansari, president of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement and an imam at the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island in Providence, said Tuesday they are concerned because of the fatal attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday and a suspicious fire at a mosque in Missouri on Monday.
"Hopefully, it's just a simple case of vandalism, but we can't be sure. Of particular concern is what happened within the Sikh community," Ansari said. "We can't just not pay attention to these types of things. We don't know if they are connected or not."
The incident at the Masjid Al-Islam happened early Sunday morning. Surveillance video showed a person walk up to the mosque's sign, struggle with it then knock down a large piece of it, put it into a car and drive away, said North Smithfield Police Capt. Tim Lafferty. The vandalism was first reported by The Providence Journal.
Lafferty said detectives are investigating it as vandalism, although he said it was too early to rule out a possible hate crime. He said the video is grainy and the person is difficult to identify. They also can't see the license plate. "We have no suspects. We just have the video," he said.
Lafferty said police have stepped up patrols around the mosque, including extra checks of the building.
Ansari said they had reached out to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements to convene a meeting so they could to express their concerns and ask for heightened security.
See also "CAIR issues safety advisory after another mosque targeted", CAIR press release, 7 August 2012
And "North Smithfield police: We don't need FBI's help investigating vandalism of sign at mosque", Providence Journal, 7 August 2012