COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An Islamic center in South Carolina has been defaced when someone spelled out "PIG CHUMP" in bacon strips, police in Florence said Tuesday.
Sometime between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, someone placed the bacon in foot-high letters on a tiled walkway at the Florence Islamic Center, according to Florence Police Major Carlos Raines.
Islamic dietary restrictions bar Muslims from eating pork.
The bacon has been removed, but Raines said there are still greasy marks on the walkway at the facility in Florence, about 80 miles east of Columbia. The one-story brick building that houses the center has been under renovation for four years, and there is no sign or prayer tower indicating what is operating there, Raines said.
"There's absolutely nothing that identifies it as a mosque," Raines said. "It's an insult, and I'm sure that's what it was intended for."
While he's sure whoever put the bacon there was trying to incite anger, one of the five men who helped found the center said Tuesday he did not feel unsafe continuing to worship there.
"Muslims don't eat the pork, so you just think that somebody did this purposefully to make people feel angry," said Mushtaq Hussain, 50, who also owns a rug business in Florence and moved to the U.S. from Pakistan about 25 years ago. "Definitely they are trying to offend people."
The center is still not open completely, and several windows were broken about nine months ago, Hussain said.
"We've never felt scared," said Hussain, adding that up to 50 people worship when the doors are open for prayer.
The American-Islamic Relations — a Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy group — on Tuesday called on the FBI to investigate, saying there have been similar threats made against Muslims nationwide.
"We believe any time there's a possibility of a bias motive in a defacement or vandalism of a house of worship, that it's a hate crime," said Ibrahim Hooper, the group's spokesman. "Of course we still don't know the motive or who did it, but it's not hard to put two and two together when you have a mosque and pork products. That's quite a common theme with Islamophobes."
Hussain said Tuesday that he's confident that local police can handle the case.