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Rutgers University Center for Islamic Life vandalized during Eid al-Fitr, officials say

By Celina Tebor, CNN

(CNN) — The Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University (CILRU) in New Brunswick was vandalized overnight during Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Islamic religious celebration that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, officials said Wednesday.

Atiyah Aftab, chairwoman of the university’s Center for Islamic Life, said in a statement the act of vandalism was “reprehensible” and “undoubtedly fueled by Islamophobia.”

“Today, we witnessed art pieces with Quranic verses, shattered windows, vandalized TVs, broken printers, smashed artwork and the destruction of our Palestinian flag,” Aftab said in the statement.

“We will continue to say what we are suppose to on Eid. Allahu Akbar, God is Greater. God is Greater than acts of hate and we will continue to carry on.”

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway wrote in a statement to the Rutgers community Wednesday that the vandalism was “a criminal act of bias and hatred.”

The incident happened overnight around 4:30am, the Rutgers University Police Department said. No one was inside the area during the burglary, according to police. The Rutgers University Police Department said in a statement the department is investigating the incident as a burglary, criminal mischief, and bias crime.

The university police department said it is working with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. CNN reached out to the prosecutor’s office who had no comment but said the incident is “still under investigation.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he was “disgusted” to learn the center was vandalized during Eid in a post on X.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said his office “is collaborating with leadership at the Rutgers Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Division of Criminal Justice, and the Division on Civil Rights to investigate this matter and hold those involved accountable.”

Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the vandalism at CIRLU and “its desecration, especially on the Islamic holiday of Eid, is deeply distressing.”

The act of vandalism comes against a backdrop of rising anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias incidents in the United States, according to CAIR. The organization said in 2023 it received 8,061 complaints of anti-Muslim bias, CNN previously reported, which marked a 56% increase over the previous year.

Over 44% of the complaints recorded were reported in the last three months of 2023, according to the organization’s annual civil rights report. 

“The new data confirms our worst suspicions: what we are witnessing since October 2023 is nothing short of the largest wave of anti-Muslim hate seen in this country in more than a decade,” Farah Afify, the report’s co-author and CAIR research and advocacy coordinator, said in previous a statement to CNN.

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