When tenants of a student housing complex poured beer and tossed cans from a balcony onto children playing in the Islamic Center of Tucson’s parking lot last month, Councilman Steve Kozachik saw a hate crime.
“This is not an example of a drunken prank,” Kozachik wrote in an angry email to managers of the Sol y Luna apartments. “It is nothing less than a hate crime.”
Irfan Sheikh is not so sure.
“We do not want to make it like it’s a huge faith-related issue,” said Sheikh, who is chairman of the ICT board. “We realize it’s a couple of kids. It doesn’t represent the community.”
It’s not as if Sheikh is a stranger to faith-based hate: In 2016, a fire was lit in a recycling bin outside the mosque during morning prayers, and a year later someone vandalized the mosque after hours, breaking into the building and destroying numerous Qurans.
“Ethnic epithets were being yelled out and people were hanging Israeli flags,” he said. “It was clearly directed at Muslims because they were Muslims.”
Siddiqi said CAIR-AZ has worked with ICT over the course of these incidents. He said that while members express frustration, they refuse to engage in any escalation, more concerned with maintaining their position as a “pillar” in the community.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a problem, he said.
“If you see something along these lines happening to a community over and over again, there’s obviously some bias on display here,” Siddiqi said. “Is this a common experience amongst houses of worship that are adjacent to these large buildings? Or is this something that is unique, happening to only Muslims?”