Mosque vandalism in Burlington leads to call for hate-crime probe

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BURLINGTON – Two local teenagers face charges in connection with damage to a mosque in an early Sunday incident that an Islamic group decried as an example of a rising tide of hate crimes targeting Muslims and their places of worship.

Responding to a 1:45 a.m. call Sunday, police saw that the exterior of the Islamic Center of Burlington had “USA” spray painted on it in multiple places and the remains of several smashed eggs that apparently were thrown at the building, according to a statement from police Chief Michael R. Kent.

“We were able to quickly close this shameful case involving a hate crime in our community,” Kent said. “This behavior is not tolerated in town and the suspects will be held responsible.”

Cameron S. Cappella and Derrik M. Demone, both 18 years of age and from Burlington, were arrested and charged Monday with malicious destruction of property over $250 and tagging property, according to police.

The incident suggests a “common Islamophobic belief that Muslims are not ‘real’ Americans,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose Massachusetts chapter called for a hate-crime investigation on Sunday.

The same mosque has in the past been targeted by similar hate attacks,” the organization said on its website. In 2013, it said, the mosque’s sign was vandalized with “USA” graffiti.

“We ask that state and federal law enforcement authorities investigate the apparent bias motive for this attack on a house of worship and that our nation’s leaders speak out against growing anti-Muslim bigotry,” John Robbins, the local group’s executive director, said on the site. The organization cited incidents in New York, Indiana, Maryland, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio and other states.

The Anti-Defamation League of New England applauded the quick apprehensions of suspects in the case.

“We welcome the arrest of two suspects in this incident and commend the Burlington Police Department for its prompt response, and for the seriousness with which it addressed this incident,” Robert Trestan, the group’s regional director, said in a statement.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter at @karabettis