Muslim leaders express solidarity with Philly Jewish cemetery after headstones are vandalized

Muslim leaders express solidarity with Philly Jewish cemetery after
Kaitlyn Moore

The expressions of support for Philadelphia’s Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery quickly followed the announcement that 100 headstones there were vandalized over the weekend.

“A vile act of anti-Semitism,” the statement read.

The words were not surprising but were made even more powerful because they came from Osama Al-Qasem, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Dr. Nasim Rehmatullah of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA added that his group was “deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters. Brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in cleanup,” he said.

That solidarity from members of the Muslim faith was part of an outpouring of support, which included the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and a Gofundme page that has been created to raise funds to repair the cemetery.

Philadelphia police have called the incident “an abominable crime that appears to target these particular headstones,” but would not yet classify it as a hate crime or a specifically anti-Jewish act. In an email, a police spokesman said the public “must allow the investigation to take its course before we can determine a specific motive or label as a particular type of crime.” Detectives are still investigating.

The 100 headstones toppled over at Mount Carmel’s cemetery in Frankford happened sometime on Saturday night. It came a day before dozens of Jewish centers along the East Coast received bomb threats, including 11 in Pennsylvania.

Local leaders of all faiths have deplored the Mount Carmel incident, with some openly connecting the rise in hate crime-related incidents, including those in Philadelphia, to the election of President Donald Trump.

Jacob Bender, who is executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Philadelphia office, was one of them. He said all faiths should “join together to defeat the extremist elements now on the rise throughout our nation, including some at the highest echelons of our national government.”

Last week, Trump condemned anti-Semitic behavior after a previous round of bomb threats against Jewish centers. He said the incidents were “horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

In recent months, Philadelphia has seen several incidents of swastikas scrawled on walls, rocks thrown through synagogue windows and vandalism reported at Jewish centers.

“Pennsylvania was struck today by multiple anonymous acts of hate,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement on Monday, in announcing an investigation into the bomb threats. “These acts are cowardly. Their perpetrators aim to spread fear, but we will stand together to ensure they fail.”

A $13,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals, with $10,000 from the Anti-Defamation League and $3,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5.