A federal grand jury in Tennessee has indicted two men on charges they vandalized an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro over the summer with bacon.
Charles Stout, 19, and Thomas Gibbs, 18, placed strips of bacon around the entrance of the center on the night of July 10, and spray painted profanity about Allah on the building’s exterior, the Department of Justice said Thursday.
Islam, like Judaism, generally prohibits followers from eating pork, thus explaining the meat’s use in the hate crime.
Though both men attempted to conceal their identities ― Stout by wearing a World-War II-era Nazi gas mask ― they were nevertheless identified from security camera footage that captured them in the act, authorities said.
Stout faces additional charges of obstructing justice after he destroyed his clothing following the crime and deleted photos of the vandalism he’d taken with his cellphone, the Justice Department said.
When we are confronted with acts of hate it is incumbent upon every American to speak loudly and clearly that we will not tolerate such actions in America. U.S. attorney Jack Smith
“When we are confronted with acts of hate it is incumbent upon every American to speak loudly and clearly that we will not tolerate such actions in America,” Jack Smith, the acting U.S. attorney, said in a statement earlier this month. “Our reaction to such acts of hate speaks to who we are as individuals and as a society.”
If convicted, the two men face up to a year in prison for the charges of conspiring and committing a civil rights violation through damage. Stout faces a maximum 20 additional years in prison if convicted of obstructing justice.
In the immediate aftermath of the vandalism, a rally in support of the Islamic Center drew a strong crowd numbering in the hundreds.
Paul Galloway, executive director of the Nashville-based American Muslim Advisory Council, said such crimes often unify the community by highlighting its goodwill instead of driving it apart.
“They’re not going to separate us from our friends, our neighbors, people of other faiths,” Galloway said. “They’re actually bringing us closer together and they’re also increasing the resoluteness of our community to be who we are.”
The Islamic Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what’s going on. Tell us your story.