Thief breaks into cars at Islamic Center; PD says coincidence
A smash and grab thief broke into at least two cars Monday night at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno (ICCF). The leader of an anti-war group who spoke inside implies the attack may have been politically motivated. Police say the time and place are just a coincidence.
Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, spoke about relations between Saudi Arabia, the United States and the rest of the Middle East. She recently authored a book “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.”
“Somebody came on to the stage and said everybody who has a car should run out into the parking lot, they are smashing our windows,” Benjamin tells GV Wire. While she addressed the audience, police say a person in a white or silver Land Rover drove into the parking lot. Sgt. Michael Landon says two official police reports have been filed, but believe there may be more cars damaged.
As to why she implied she was targeted, she says the ICCF and other mosques she’s spoken at have been targeted before. “It could have been random acts of vandalism, it could have been people who wanted to target folks at the mosque.” She also wondered if someone from the Saudi community may be the suspect.
Others on social media feel this was a targeted attack as well:
Landon tells GV Wire that this was a crime of opportunity and neither the Islamic Center nor Benjamin were specifically targeted. Another nearby business reported break-ins by a similar Land Rover.
“There is a heightened sensitivity to Islamaphobia, especially with Donald Trump being elected. I think it is justifiable that people are concerned when something happens in the parking lot of a mosque when an event is going on,” Benjamin says.
According to Benjamin, her suitcase, cash, boxes of books, notes and a notebook were taken.
Benjamin, though, puts the break-in into perspective. “It’s just things. In the end, it is not all that important. I think of the Syrian refugees who have to flee their house and maybe grab one or two things. Getting your stuff taken is quite minor compared to people going through in the war zone.”
Video of both incidents are available at the Fresno Police Department’s Facebook site.