Crime

Lexington Islamic Center reports email death threat; group blames rising Islamophobia

A 2009 file photo of Mahmoud Shalash, the imam of the Lexington Islamic Center.
A 2009 file photo of Mahmoud Shalash, the imam of the Lexington Islamic Center. Lexington

The Islamic Center of Lexington contacted Lexington police and federal Homeland Security Friday morning after receiving an email threat, its imam Mahmoud Shalash said.

The email threat, received shortly before noon Friday, said: “I'm going to kill everyone I there [sic] you Muslim f**ks. Salabis is coming for you, ” according to a news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

“We are aware of the incident and are looking into it to determine the proper course of action,” said David Habich, chief counsel for the FBI in Louisville, in an e-mail to the Herald-Leader.

Soon after the threat was received, CAIR called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to step up protection for the mosque.

"Our nation's leaders must send a clear message challenging the rising Islamophobia that leads to such threats."

Ibrahim Hooper

Shalash, in a telephone interview, said he did not know what the word “Salabis” meant, but he said the person who sent the threat sent it from his iPhone, identifying himself.

“Somebody has to be sick to reveal himself,” said Shalash.

He said a board member from the mosque met with Lexington police around noon.

The Lexington Police Department robbery/homicide unit is investigating the threat and patrols will be increased in the area, Lt. Joe Anderson said.

“This clear terroristic death threat targeting a house of worship must be treated seriously by local, state and federal law enforcement authorities and the perpetrator should be apprehended and brought to justice,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in the news release. "Our nation's leaders must send a clear message challenging the rising Islamophobia that leads to such threats."

Hooper noted that earlier on Friday, CAIR highlighted an FBI alert to New York police about an Arizona anti-Islam extremist who is reportedly traveling to that state to “confront” Muslims.

Earlier this week, CAIR released an initial report on backlash and discrimination targeting the nation's Muslim community since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.

CAIR said it has received more reports about acts of “Islamophobic discrimination,” intimidation, threats and violence targeting American Muslims and Islamic institutions in the past week-and-a-half than during any other limited period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks.

CAIR attributes this spike in anti-Muslim incidents to the Paris attacks and to remarks by political candidates and lawmakers in the run-up to the 2016 general election, the news release said.

“Of particular concern is the extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and falsehoods being espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson,” the news release said. “Another contributing factor to this marked rise in Islamophobic hostility is state governors and lawmakers playing on public fears and spreading misinformation about the federal government's ability to screen Syrian refugees being resettled into the United States.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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