Updated: 4 p.m. | Posted: 9:01 a.m.
A St. Paul mosque was vandalized early Saturday morning when someone broke into the place of worship and left behind a trail of broken glass and rambling graffiti.
The graffiti inside the Darul Iman mosque included "hateful words” and “religious overtones,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
“Someone [was] trying to send a message to this community and this mosque," Hussein said.
St. Paul police are treating the incident as a potential bias-motivated crime, according to spokesperson Steve Linders. Officers will increase patrols around area mosques.
Just minutes before the mosque’s 5:30 a.m. prayer service on Saturday, Hussein said, a worshiper found a white man who appeared to be about 40 years old inside the mosque. Nobody in the mosque recognized him.
The worshiper asked the man what he was doing in the mosque before he fled the scene. Then, worshipers found the vandalism.
Rambling graffiti on a white board inside the imam’s office included “Merry Xmas” and references to “Jesus” and “God.” The door to the imam’s office was damaged, Hussein said. There was a dent in one wall.
Linders said police consider the man a suspect.
This is at least the second incident of vandalism against Twin Cities Muslims in recent weeks.
Last month, Salaam Mosque in northeast Minneapolis was vandalized. Surveillance video showed someone smashing a glass door in the mosque.
Darul Iman mosque officials believe the damage from this weekend’s vandalism will cost $5,000 to $7,000 to repair. They’ve set up a GoFundMe to help cover the costs.
"It's extremely troubling,” Hussein said. “But we look forward to finding who this person was and for the community to move forward. Thankfully this did not end any more tragically or [with] any more difficulty than it has."