The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is asking the FBI to investigate graffiti in St. Paul that it said targeted Muslims.
The graffiti read "[expletive] Islam" in motor oil near a driveway in a neighborhood occupied by several Muslim families, according to a CAIR-MN news release Thursday.
Residents contacted CAIR-MN about the graffiti.
"It's troubling because St. Paul is very diverse and there's a large Muslim community in Minnesota," said CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya. "It's a safety concern. This is where people live."
It's unclear who the suspect might be, she said.
Saroya said the graffiti occurred at Juno Street and Milton Avenue, and was reported to police by an anonymous neighbor on Oct. 28. Residents asked the city to remove the graffiti.
A few days later, the city painted over the graffiti because it was difficult to remove, said Saroya, who applauded the neighbors' involvement.
"It's easy for [neighbors] to close their doors and not get involved, but that's not what they did," she said.
Daniel Wallace, who lives in the home where the graffiti was found, said Friday that his family did not write the graffiti and does not support its sentiments. Wallace said that his family is not Muslim, but that some neighborhood residents are.
"We do not condone what was written in the driveway," Wallace said.
Wallace said that his family was surprised to discover the graffiti on the concrete leading into their driveway. The motor oil seeped into the concrete and could not be washed away despite Wallace's efforts.
Wallace said it's unclear who left the graffiti, and who was being targeted. None of the homes in immediate view of the graffiti are occupied by Muslim families, he said.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said the bureau, which investigates potential civil rights violations and hate crimes, was in contact with St. Paul police Thursday about the matter.
It's unclear at this point whether the FBI will investigate the graffiti, Loven said. "We're still working through the facts," he said.
State law technically labels crimes based on a person's age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or disability, among other traits, as "crimes motivated by bias."
Saroya said she appreciates the local investigation, but is calling for a federal investigation as well because federal penalties are more severe.
She said her office hadn't received recent reports of similar graffiti or anti-Muslim crimes, although crimes such as vandalism of mosques or homes are reported a few times a year in Minnesota.