Feces smeared on NJ school sign, group demands hate crime probe
Feces were smeared on a public school sign twice in four days
The smear only covered the letters forming 'Allah,' the Arabic word for God
An Islamic advocacy group demands a hate crime investigation for the vandalism
PATERSON — The Council on American-Islamic Relations of New Jersey wants an immediate hate crime investigation after feces were smeared over a public school sign twice in four days.
Named for the late Dr. Hani Awadallah, the Paterson school for Pre-K through eighth-grade students is near the Marshall and Hazel Streets intersection. Its namesake was a local educator and advocate for Arab Americans and Palestinians.
On Friday, smears of an "unknown dark substance" appeared on the school's sign, according to CAIR-NJ. A vandal had covered up a section of Awadallah's last name forming the word "Allah." On Monday, a man was spotted again smearing the name. CAIR-NJ identified the substance as feces.
Dina Sayedahmed, spokesperson for CAIR-NJ, told New Jersey 101.5 that officials had confirmed to the organization that a suspect was in custody Monday. However, the group could not name the individual as charges had not yet been filed.
Executive Director Selaedin Maksut called for an immediate hate crime investigation into the smearings.
“While we are still learning the facts of the incidents, we have reason to believe that the suspect acted on an anti-Muslim impulse due to his social media postings, in which he posted the defecated sign as well as a desecrated Qur’an," Maksut said.
Attorney General Matthew Platkin told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement Tuesday that the Division of Criminal Justice Bias Crimes Unit is working with the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office to investigate the matter.
"Dr. Awadallah was an ardent advocate for the Arab-Americans who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children and immigrants," Platkin said. "He was passionate about ensuring equity among students. He left his city of Paterson, and all of New Jersey, a proud legacy that we will work to honor and protect."
New Jersey 101.5 has reached out to the PCPO for comment.