LOS ANGELES — Law enforcement authorities and Muslim community leaders condemned a series of letters sent to area mosques denouncing Muslims and warning of a pending “cleansing” of America under President Donald Trump, and local officials urged anyone who receives such a letter to come forward.
“I would encourage you, the community, that if you receive letters like this, please report them,” said Stephen Woolery, FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s Counterterrorism Division in Los Angeles at a press conference Nov. 28.
“Because we know that there is under-reporting in a number of crimes that occur. We encourage you to report these things so we can get to the bottom of it and we can keep the community safe.”
Joined by officials from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Los Angeles School Police and Muslim community organizations, Woolery said the letters contained “awful, awful language” against Muslims, but did not contain any specific threat.
Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations chapters in Anaheim and the San Francisco Bay Area reported that the mosques received a hand-written letter calling Muslims “vile and filthy people,” and telling them to “pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”
The letters said Trump would “cleanse America and make it shine again. And, he’s going to start with you Muslims.” The letters were addressed to “Children of Satan,” and warned that Trump was “going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”
Woolery said the letters were delivered to the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, along with mosques in Signal Hill, Northridge, Claremont and San Jose. He also said a similar letter was sent to a mosque in Georgia.
“The letters that we’re seeing, they all look similar in language,” he said. “I don’t want to be too absolute but they look like they come from the same author.”
Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing said the letters sent to the Islamic Center of Southern California and the mosque in Northridge were postmarked Nov. 19.
“We’re asking all communities — if you’ve received letters like this to make sure you report those,” Downing said at the news conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California on Vermont Avenue.
“Hateful rhetoric creates fear among so many communities, and I think it’s also caused by people who are fearful of communities” that are different from themselves, Downing said. “The real message here is we are all Americans. This is our home, whether you’re Christian, Muslim or Jew.”
Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said he and other community leaders want to reassure people who are targets of hateful language or bullying that “they are not alone.”
“We will meet this kind of hate with force,” he said. “Let me just speak directly to the person who wrote these letters to the mosques: You are a coward — unless you come here and debate the points that you apparently believe so much in. So let us bring this darkness that you are in to light, and let us discuss these issues directly.”
Al-Marayati pointed to anti-Muslim sentiment “among a fringe element of America” that includes conspiracy theories about Muslims and Islam.
“The more you repeat a lie, the more it becomes fact,” he said. “So let us debate these issues out in the open.”