In the years she's lived in Rochester, Regina Mustafa said, she's never seen the kind of vandalism that took place at a local mosque over the weekend when someone left strips of bacon near the front door and in a nearby parking lot.
"This is the first time anything like this has happened," said Mustafa, who serves on the board at the Masjed Abubakr Al-Seddiq mosque located on a busy downtown Rochester street. "This is a shock."
The apparent act of vandalism discovered Saturday morning by members of the mosque has been referred to the Rochester police for investigation as a hate crime. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has also asked authorities to investigate.
Muslims are barred from eating pork, and CAIR has characterized the incident as "attempted religious desecration."
Mustafa said she was heartened by the response from her neighbors, including non-Muslims, who stopped by the mosque on Sunday to show support.
"The overwhelming feeling you get in Rochester is welcoming," said Mustafa, who's running for mayor in the southern Minnesota city, the third largest in the state with a population of more than 111,000.
Rochester coffee shop owner Sarah Phelan said she heard about the vandalism from customers and, along with her co-owner, Patrick Phelan, wanted to help out. The Phelans donated coffee to the community gathering at the mosque on Sunday.
"We made a bunch of phone calls" to tell people about the gathering, Phelan said.
"There [were] a lot of people looking to stand for something in this town that was not divisive and hateful," she said. "The response was a lot bigger than the initial act."
CAIR also filed a complaint recently against the Red Lobster restaurant chain after members of a Muslim family said they were treated rudely at a Rochester location. The family said servers ignored their requests for water for 30 minutes and made derogatory remarks about Muslims celebrating Ramadan.