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November 21, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Islamic group: Vandalism at Snohomish County cemetery may be hate crime

Members of the local Bosnian community are calling for a thorough investigation after 15 to 20 headstones at the Islamic Cemetery of the Bosniaks in Woodinville were toppled and damaged.

A family visiting the nearly 100-year-old cemetery, located in unincorporated Snohomish County, called other members of Bosnian Muslim community in greater Seattle on Thursday to report the damage, said Meliha Babic, a Bellevue attorney whose relatives’ gravesites were also vandalized.

Babic believes vandals targeted the Muslim gravesites. About half of the cemetery is dedicated to Muslims, with the other half set aside for Christians. Babic said Christian gravesites were not damaged.

“I called the police and insisted they make a report. They insisted this was mischief,” Babic said.

Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Friday that a deputy was dispatched Thursday to the cemetery at 216th Street Southeast and Highway 9 to take a malicious mischief report. “There was not enough evidence at the scene to label it a ‘hate crime,’ ” Ireton said in an email.

But Babic added, “We believe this is not random crime. We believe this is a hate crime, or something directed.”

On Friday, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) called for an investigation.

“Because the perpetrators of this desecration appear to have targeted only the Muslim graves, we urge state and federal law-enforcement authorities to investigate this troubling incident as a possible hate crime,” said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the CAIR-WA.

Babic said the small regional Bosnian Muslim community started using the cemetery about 10 years ago. She said families have special headstones made in Bosnia or Turkey.

“It’s just really heartbreaking,” Babic said. “We never thought this would happen. So many of our community members have come here because of violence in our country, and now we have it here too. It’s like digging up old wounds.”

 

 

 

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: gravestones damaged, Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Woodinville

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