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Gravesite of Muslim man vandalized for sixth time, police say

Ryan Haggerty, Chicago Tribune –

The gravesite of a Muslim man in an Evergreen Park cemetery has been vandalized for the sixth time in the last 17 months, police said today.

Employees at Evergreen Cemetery found anti-Muslim slogans and gang symbols scrawled on a headstone, a bench and a concrete slab at the grave of Hassan Mustafa Abdallah on Thursday and called police, Evergreen Park police Lt. Pete Donovan said. Anti-gay slogans were also visible on the gravesite this morning as a worker tried to remove the graffiti.

Police suspect the same person or group of people is responsible, although they’re not sure of the motive, Donovan said.

“I can’t speculate,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if they’re doing it because of race or if maybe there was some connection (with Abdallah). Hopefully that will come out in the investigation when we find this person.”

Abdallah was born in 1926 and died in 1999. Police don’t know why his grave has been targeted, Donovan said. Abdallah’s family has been notified of the vandalism, cemetery spokeswoman Jessica McDunn said.

Donovan said it appeared as if this week’s graffiti had been written with a black marker. Black markers and charcoal have been used in past incidents, Donovan said.

The first incident was reported in March 2011, Donovan said. Three more incidents were reported last year, plus another one earlier this year, he said.

McDunn said this week’s vandalism probably occurred Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Although graffiti on the gravesite in the past was removed with cleaning solutions, this week’s graffiti will likely have to be sandblasted because the writing seems to be more permanent, she said.

Charlie Khalil stopped by the cemetery on his way to work this morning to make sure the graves of his mother and several other relatives hadn’t been vandalized. He said he doesn’t know of any other problems at the cemetery, where Muslims have been buried alongside people of other faiths for decades.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Khalil, 44, of Orland Park. “We’re not bad people. We’re just regular people. I don’t know why people do this stuff…. It’s just ignorant people.”

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago issued a news release this morning saying that “a number of graves” had been desecrated, but Donovan said police are only aware of one.

The Council and other Muslim and interfaith organizations are planning to hold a rally against “hate and Islamophobia” at 5 p.m. today at South Michigan Avenue and East Congress Parkway, according to the news release.

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