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Fresno Islamic Cultural Center receives letter threatening Muslim genocide, praising Trump

A copy of the letter sent to the Fresno Islamic Cultural Center.
A copy of the letter sent to the Fresno Islamic Cultural Center.

The Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno received a chain letter Monday threatening genocide against Muslims and praising President-elect Donald Trump.

The same letter made national news after being sent to three other mosques in California starting Thursday and one in Georgia on Monday. It is addressed to “the children of Satan” and says that Trump will do to Muslims what Hitler did to Jews. It calls Muslims “filthy people” and “evil” and says they “worship the devil.” It is signed by “Americans for a Better Way.”

Reza Nekumanesh, director of the Islamic center in Fresno, said the letter was postmarked in Santa Clarita and sent from “Reza Khan.” The Washington Post reported the Georgia letter also was postmarked Santa Clarita and by the same person.

Public records searches revealed there is no one by that name in either city. The Fresno envelope includes a local return address on Oak Street, but there is no Oak Street in Fresno.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that the letters were sent to the Islamic Center of Long Beach, the Islamic Center of Claremont, the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose and the Islamic Center of Savannah, Ga. The council has called for greater police protection at local mosques.

I’m confident we’re going to be able to track down who is responsible for this letter.

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said he increased the presence of an officer around the Islamic center. He said the police department is working with the FBI to investigate the letter as a terrorist threat and a hate crime, and to determine who is responsible.

“I’m confident we’re going to be able to track down who is responsible for this letter,” he said, adding that it’s highly unlikely that the name on the envelope is the person responsible.

Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno said the Jewish community “condemns the racist vitriol sent to our friends at the Islamic Cultural Center.”

Nekumanesh said receiving hate mail is nothing new; the center received such messages throughout the presidential campaign. He said the letter is more emblematic of the deeply rooted hatred that has existed since this country’s inception.

Still, he said many Muslims are anxious and fearful of what could happen to them.

“The idea that Trump is creating hatred is a ridiculous concept,” he said. “All he did is make it OK to say it loudly.”

The letter states “There’s a new sheriff in town – President Donald Trump.”

During his campaign, Trump told CNN “I think Islam hates us” and said it’s difficult to separate “radical” Islam from Islam itself. Since winning the election, he has continued to call for a registry of immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries and a ban on others from entering.

The letter states “There’s a new sheriff in town – President Donald Trump” and tells Muslims to “pack your bags and get out of Dodge.” Nekumanesh said the way it’s written makes it difficult to take seriously, like it’s from “somebody who watches a lot of cowboy movies.”

“People are brave when they don’t have to look you in the face,” he said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 701 incidents of harassment nationwide in the first week after the presidential election. Of those, 206 were anti-immigrant and 51 were anti-Muslim. SPLC also reported 27 anti-Trump incidents.

FBI hate crime statistics released this month show 257 reported bias crimes against Muslims last year, a 67 percent surge over 2014.

Andrea Castillo: 559-441-6279, @andreamcastillo

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