Damage to the Islamic Center of San Francisco after a beer bottle was thrown through the window on Nov. 12, 2021. (Photo/Courtesy Islamic Center of San Francisco)
Damage to the Islamic Center of San Francisco after a beer bottle was thrown through the window on Nov. 12, 2021. (Photo/Courtesy Islamic Center of San Francisco)

Outpouring of Jewish support follows S.F. mosque vandalism

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Board member Zuhaib Siddique of the Islamic Center of San Francisco said he was genuinely surprised, and reassured, by the recent outpouring of support for his community following a shocking act of vandalism on Friday night at his Bernal Heights mosque, one of the oldest in California.

Less than a week after a man was captured on blurry security camera footage chucking a beer bottle through a window around 11 p.m., staining the carpet inside with alcohol, a prohibited substance in Islam, the community had crowdfunded more than $10,000. The  funds will allow the mosque not only to repair the window and clean the carpet, but upgrade the security system as well.

“I honestly just made the post on Facebook on Saturday morning, just as an FYI,” Siddique told J., referring to his 8:57 a.m. post on the center’s Facebook page the morning after the incident that included a picture of the broken window, information about the crime and the message, “Stay safe, everyone.”

“There was no donor page or anything,” he said. “By midday, people were asking, how can we donate?”

Support has come from all corners of the city, including from Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.

One message publicly shared with the Islamic Center was written in Hebrew: It said “anachnu b’yachad,” or “we are together,” from Isaac Gendler.

Another was from Margo Freistadt, who sent $50 and wrote: “Your friends at Or Shalom Jewish Community stand with you. Keep the faith!”

Rev. Trent Thornley sent $150 along with a message: “You have our prayers this very night.”

A man identified as Larry sent $50: “May we all live in peace,” he wrote. “from a Jewish cousin.”

The donation page can be found here.

Zuhaib Siddique
Zuhaib Siddique

San Francisco police were still investigating the incident and had a meeting scheduled with the center leadership Wednesday afternoon to review security footage and conduct interviews, Siddique said.

He said the close-knit Bernal Heights Islamic Center community, which formed in 1959, had thankfully not seen any hate-motivated violence in 20 years — since after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was told by older members that in the wake of the attacks, people threw food and eggs at the door.

Per statewide figures, reported anti-Muslim hate crimes are relatively rare in California. According to the attorney general’s annual ”Hate Crime in California” report, there were 15 incidents last year (plus 10 categorized as “anti-Arab”).

In San Francisco, police reported a total of 54 hate crimes across the city last year. This year, 46 had been tallied as of August, according to an SFPD spokesperson.

Mosque leaders called on the SFPD for a full investigation, but they also said they wanted to meet the offender to engage in a process of restorative justice. “We hope that the person who did this will someday come visit the mosque and sit down with us, learn from us,” Siddique said in a separate interview.

Such an approach is not foreign to the Jewish community. About four years ago, after someone painted Nazi graffiti on the parking lot at Temple Beth El in Aptos, synagogue leaders invited the offender to a discussion with shul leaders, “to try to explain to him the impact of what he had perpetrated,” Rabbi Paula Marcus told J. earlier this year.

Mosque activities resumed the weekend of the incident with prayer five times a day. The center also hosts a religious school, similar to Hebrew school, which has been meeting throughout the week.

The incident “has people a little bit on edge,” Siddique said, adding: “We were taken aback by the outpouring of support and love.”

Bay Area Jewish leaders shared their outrage and expressed solidarity with the Islamic Center in conversations and statements this week.

“Obviously when a minority religious community is attacked, it is not just an attack on that community alone, but on all religious minority communities,” Or Shalom Rabbi Katie Mizrahi said. Or Shalom has partnered with the Islamic Center on interfaith initiatives in the past, including after the Christchurch shooting. In addition to congregants donating money, the shul was considering other concrete steps moving forward, such as a day of solidarity and activism.

“Attacks on Muslims,” Mizrahi said, “are just one degree of separation away from attacks on our own community.”

“SFJCRC fully condemns this despicable act of vandalism to the Islamic Center of San Francisco,” the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with the Bay Area Muslim community.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.