CBS 2: Muslim Headstones Desecrated At Evergreen Park Cemetery

EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Several headstones at a cemetery in Evergreen Park were found desecrated with anti-Muslim graffiti this week, and Chicago’s Muslim community is shocked.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago reported Friday morning that the graffiti had been scrawled on several graves at the Evergreen Cemetery, at 3401 W. 87th St. in Evergreen Park.

The group says a Palestinian-American man went to pay respects to his deceased father at the cemetery, and was horrified to see several Muslim graves desecrated.

The man notified the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who in turn notified police.

“The Southwest Side has been home to a large Muslim and Arab American population for over 30 years; it is shocking to find such hatred, especially at a cemetery,” council associate director Ahlam Jbara said in a news release.

The council posted photos of the graffiti on its Web site. Family markers were desecrated with ethnic slurs directed at Muslims and words that insulted the prophet Muhammad.

“My father faced prejudice when he was alive, and the fact that somebody would take this to the grave – I mean, even after this person has departed the world – it’s a very sad exclamation point on the state of the bigotry out there,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the CAIR.

Some of the graffiti was also accompanied by gang symbols, including the six-pointed star and pitchforks of the Folk Nation – an alliance of several gangs – and a message reading, “Folks bitch.”

CAIR wants the offenders brought to justice.

“This is completely despicable. It’s horrifying that someone would do this to any person’s grave, regardless of whether they’re Muslim or not. It’s something that should be, I think, should be investigated by local authorities,” said CAIR Chicago communications director Aymen Abdel Halim. “Law enforcement should be on top of this.”

Evergreen Park police said they had “no information” on whether there would be extra patrols following the incident.

Evergreen Park police said this was not an attack on all the Muslim gravestones at the cemetery, but was isolated to one specific gravesite.

The same gravesite has been targeted five other times since March of last year, police said.

Police believe the vandal scrawled the graffiti during the overnight hours Thursday night. He does not know if there was any surveillance footage that might have captured the act.

Evergreen Cemetery is owned by Texas-based Dignity Memorial. Spokeswoman Jessica McDunn released a statement that read in part: “We are shocked and dismayed that anyone would disturb any grave or its contents. Vandalism of any kind is unacceptable, but this crime is especially despicable.”

McDunn said the company has requested extra police patrols in that area, and that the next of kin has been notified.

The Council of Islamic Organizations pointed out that this latest incident comes on the heels of two attacks or acts of vandalism directed at Muslim institutions.

This past Sunday night, the College Preparatory School of America, an Islamic school at 331 W. Madison St. in Lombard, was subjected to vandalism. The council says someone hurled a 7-Up bottle filled with acid and other unspecified materials at the school during the nighttime Ramadan prayers.

During the prayer session, worshipers heard a loud bang and went to find an empty bottle thrown on the window of the school. No one was injured.

And a week ago, air rifle shots were fired at a mosque in north suburban Morton Grove.

Authorities began investigating after a Friday night shooting, while worshipers were celebrating the holy month of Ramadan at the Muslim Education Center, 8601 N. Menard Avenue, about 9 p.m., according to police and mosque officials. No one was injured.

The man suspected of firing the shots – David Conrad, 51, who lives just east of the house of worship – was charged with three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, a class X felony, and one count of criminal damage to property, a class 4 felony.

Police in Morton Grove said prosecutors rejected hate crime charges.

In response to the incidents, the council is planning a flash mob action against hate and Islamophobia at 5 p.m. Friday, at Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway.