RELIGION
09/18/2015 06:06 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2015

Hundreds Gather At Louisville Mosque To Paint Over Hateful Graffiti

"Everyone is working together and in unison and that's the true spirit of the city and its residents."
Louisville residents gather for a clean up at the vandalized Islamic Center.
Courtesy of Ozair Shariff
Louisville residents gather for a clean up at the vandalized Islamic Center.

Nearly 1,000 people showed up at the Islamic Center of Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday to paint over anti-Muslim graffiti that appeared Wednesday night, according to a center director.

Representatives from all major faith groups and congregations were there to show support, along with students from private, public and Catholic schools, Ozair Shariff, a board of directors member, told The Huffington Post.

"I think it's very apparent that whatever the intended message the perpetrator had, it certainly backfired," Shariff said. "Everyone is working together and in unison and that's the true spirit of the city and its residents."

Louisville residents gather for a clean up at the vandalized Islamic Center.
Courtesy of Ozair Shariff
Louisville residents gather for a clean up at the vandalized Islamic Center.

After Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the mosque president and other faith and community leaders made brief comments, volunteers took turns painting brush strokes over the messages that read, "this is for France" and "Moslems leave the Jews alone." Supplies for the painting were donated by local residents and organizations, Shariff said.

Matt Goldberg, development director of the Jewish Community of Louisville, joined the cleanup crew, along with more than 100 volunteers from the Jewish community.

“No one imagined something like that would happen here in Louisville,” Goldberg told The Huffington Post on Friday. “We pride ourselves on our tolerance and our diversity. It was a shock to the system.”

Mayor Greg Fischer addresses the crowd gathered for a clean up at the Louisville Islamic Center.
Courtesy of Ozair Shariff
Mayor Greg Fischer addresses the crowd gathered for a clean up at the Louisville Islamic Center.

Local authorities assisted with parking and traffic, Shariff said, and the Louisville Boat Club, which neighbors the center, offered the use of its parking lot and field during the event. 

Louisville has a large and “very liked” Muslim community that frequently partners with the Jewish community on service projects, Goldberg said.

Every year, the center hosts an interfaith iftar during Ramadan, which attracts a large turnout from the Jewish community. The Jewish community, in turn, hosts yearly interfaith Hanukkah celebrations and Holocaust commemorations, which members of the mosque attend.

Louisville students hold a sign that reads: "Be a link in the chain of peace."
Courtesy of Ozair Shariff
Louisville students hold a sign that reads: "Be a link in the chain of peace."

The two communities also have worked together to raise money to aid victims of natural disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and record-breaking flooding that ravaged Pakistan the same year.

The recent vandalism will only reaffirm the longstanding alliance, Goldberg said. “Something like this is only going to bring our communities together,” he said. “We won’t stand for any kind of discriminatory actions.”

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