When Dr. Samir Shams flipped through the mail at the Islamic Center of Des Moines on Sunday morning, he found something disturbing.
The Islamic Center of Des Moines president unfolded a threatening handwritten note calling Muslims “filthy” and “vile” people.
Police in San Jose, Calif., received reports of the same letter being sent to a mosque in November. Similar notes were reportedly sent to other mosques in California, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida that month.
The note was signed only “Americans for a Better Way” and appeared to be written by someone who claims to support President Donald Trump. The note made Holocaust references, saying Trump is “going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” It warned Muslims to “pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”
“We take something like this seriously,” Shams said. “You never know when it could get to another level.”
Islamic Center of Des Moines board member Jamal Muhammad said he was saddened and worried by the note.
“In this climate, we have to take these things seriously because it could escalate,” he said.
Muhammad said he hoped to see elected officials speak out and condemn the hateful rhetoric toward Des Moines Muslims, as well as Muslims around the world, whether the denunciation came from U.S. Rep. Steve King or Trump himself.
“Politicians should make statements about this kind of stuff,” Muhammad said. “It would be good to see elected officials — whether they’re Democrat or Republican or what — they should condemn things like this.”
The Iowa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that advocates for Muslims’ civil rights, called for a hate crime investigation of the anti-Muslim note in a press release.
Similar hate messages have been sent to other Iowa mosques, as well as mosques in states such as Maryland, Alabama, Virginia and Kentucky, according to the CAIR release.
Shams said the Islamic center is thankful for their “good neighbors” in the Des Moines community who reached out after word spread about the note Sunday.
One community member dropped off a card reading, “I heard about the hateful letter you received. Know that you are welcome here.” Another left flowers and put up a sign near the center’s driveway reading “You Belong” with a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
FBI spokeswoman Michele Stevenson, based in Omaha, said in a statement Monday: “We are aware of the letter, and I can confirm that we have met with individuals from the Islamic Center of Des Moines. We are currently assessing the situation.”
Shams said Sunday that the Islamic center has video footage of the incident, which will be released to officials, along with the threatening note.