Between prayers on the morning of Eid-al-Adha yesterday, worshipers at the Islamic Center of Cleveland welcomed a stranger into their mosque.
A middle-aged white man clad in a T-shirt and jeans had approached the congregation gathered outside their stately place of worship in Parma, Ohio and asked about registration. He was told, “There’s no need for registration — you’re more than welcome to come in.”
But the man soon started calling the mosque members “pedophiles” and “terrorists.” After he was asked to leave, he ran to his car and started rummaging under his seat. Recounting the scene to Fox 8 Cleveland, Hasan Saleh said they chased the man’s vehicle a short distance before he drove straight into police officers directing traffic on a nearby block.
While the man was being arrested, he continued to shout obscenities and pointed a middle finger at the congregants. Police later discovered a hatchet under his passenger seat.
Scheduled for a court appearance this morning, according to Fox 8, the man faces possible ethnic intimidation felony charges.
“We definitely want people to know that these types of actions will not be tolerated in the city of Parma,” Parma Police Lieutenant Kevin Riley told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “Everyone has the right to practice their religion in peace without being harassed.”
In a press release sent out close to midnight, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on state and federal law enforcement to consider prosecuting the man for a hate crime.
“We believe this type of incident is the result of the toxic anti-Muslim atmosphere created by those in our society who seek to demonize Islam and to target American Muslims with hate rhetoric,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in the statement.
During a holiday that was supposed to be a celebration for the Muslim community, the morning incident has left some shaken.
“He had to have known [it was Eid] because it only happens twice a year that we’re actually here in congregation of that number,” Saleh told Fox 8.
“You hear about this stuff in the news,” he said. “You say, you know what, that’s crazy what’s going on. But you never would think that it would happen so close to home.”