A recent vandalism incident at a Muslim cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota, resulted in the destruction of five concrete vaults used in burials.
The incident occurred sometime before Friday morning at a vacant building of the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead (ISFM) in the 8000 block of 25th St. South, according to reports.
Staff members preparing for a funeral reportedly discovered the shattered vaults. Damages are estimated at around $5,000 in total.
“They needed to have some sort of tool to get in, and then also to break up these vaults,” Heidi Soliman, a spokesperson with ISFM, told InForum. “They’re cement boxes that are heavy and big. So this is a little concerning, and why, and who did it and what was the point? Probably not high school kids.”
One board member described the incident as a hate crime. InForum noted that there are no signs outside the vacant building that identify its affiliation with ISFM.
“This is a pre-planned hate crime,” Dr. Ahmer Qarni told InForum. “Just to send a message to the Muslims, you know, that you are not welcome.”
The recent incident adds to anti-Muslim incidents reported in the area since last year. In a statement, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged law enforcement authorities to consider a bias motive in their investigation.
“Given the recent incidents targeting Muslim communities in the region, we urge law enforcement authorities to consider a possible bias motive as they investigate this case,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said. “All faith communities should be able to bury their dead and carry out other aspects of their faith without fear of harassment.”
Speaking to KFGO, Hussein cited a 2021 incident that involved a man spray-painting “Death to Islam” at the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center.
“One thing that was not reported, actually, in the past was that the man who vandalized and targeted the Moorhead mosque actually belonged to an active three-person militia that had been online targeting the mosque,” Hussein said.
ISFM has created a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help cover costs to improve its security. As of this writing, the campaign has raised $3,295.
“It has become imperative that we add additional security and build a new secure building for vault storage and maintenance and that the existing structures are torn down,” the organization wrote.
“The cemetery has been entirely a grassroots effort by community volunteers to offer Muslims a place to bury their loved ones. The committee just recently began plans for cemetery improvements including the landscaping and graves. We hope to continue plans to offer a safe and peaceful space for families to bury and grieve their loved ones.”
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case.