MOORHEAD, Minn. — The Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center and a Muslim civil rights group say they forgive the man accused of vandalizing a mosque with racist and anti-Islam graffiti, and invite him and his family to visit after the month of Ramadan.
Benjamin Stewart Enderle, 22, of Moorhead, was arrested on April 28 and faces felony harassment and criminal damage to property charges. The charges are enhanced because they involve allegations of bias against a protected class, prosecutors said last week.
Police arrested Enderle after a Walmart loss prevention officer looked into red spray paint sales at the retail chain's Dilworth, Minn., location, according to court documents.
Phrases painted on the outside of the mosque included "Death to Islam" and women "can't vote," along with racial slur across six windows. Nearly 400 members of the community removed the graffiti in less than 2 hours the Monday following the incident.
By Tuesday, May 4, GoFundMe accounts had raised a total of $65,691 to help with mosque renovations and to purchase additional security equipment.
"It is the month of Ramadan, and forgiveness is the message we learn from the day we step into this world. With that in mind, we ... would like to let the gentleman who allegedly put graffiti and hate messages on our mosque know that we forgive him from the deepest of our hearts," said Sajid Ghauri, adviser for the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center.
"Instead of coming in the dark, please come in light and talk with us," Ghauri said. "I guarantee you we will find lots of common ground and we will become good friends. Love is much more powerful than hate."
In a news release, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota applauded the leadership of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center and the Moorhead community, calling their work a blessing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"While the hate crime sent a chilling message to our community, we welcome the opportunity to heal and move forward," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN.