Images taint Muslim site

This pistol was added to the Northern Nevada Islamic Center’s Facebook page above a logo for Militias of Michigan.

This pistol was added to the Northern Nevada Islamic Center’s Facebook page above a logo for Militias of Michigan.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies have received reports of the hacking of an online site of the Northern Nevada Islamic Center in Sparks.

The Facebook site was laden with malicious and violent images, including an obscene gesture and a pistol.

The Center’s board chair, Sherif Elfass, said, “We reported it to the FBI, the police and sheriff’s offices.”

But the alleged hacker was identified by a Reno Muslim as a Sparks resident who was then interviewed by the FBI. Sherif said, “He feels bad f0r what he did,” but was restrained in his comments on the cyber attack, saying, “It is very disappointing when you see something like this. … It is unfortunate.”

The Center was applying for a temporary protection order at press time.

The site now incongruouly mixes authentic messages posted by people in the community alongside the hateful material. Messages like “At the masjid to give thanks for life, health, love and all the blessings in my life. To give thanks for allowing me to do the work I do” and “Jummah prayer with my hubby good start good day” now appear alongside a menacing skeletal mask with the term “INFIDEL” across it and the verbiage accompanying the image of an obscene gesture—“Fuck Islam.”

The FBI declined comment.

These incidents are often attributed to anger that followed the September 11 tragedies, but in fact anti-Islam prejudice was common before that.

In March 2001, 24 weeks before September 11 and after the Northern Nevada Islamic Center received telephoned threats, two people at the Center were attacked by several assailants, one wielding a baseball bat. One man’s arm was broken, the other was so badly injured he had to stop practicing medicine. It was characterized as a hate crime by police, who made two arrests and then said it was not a hate crime.

A decade before September 11, author Jack Shaheen wrote, “Today’s Arab stereotype parallels the image of Jews in pre-Nazi Germany, where Jews were painted as dark, shifty-eyed, venal, and threateningly different people. After the Holocaust, the characterization of Jews as murderous anarchists or greedy financiers was no longer tolerable. Many cartoonists, however, reincarnated this caricature and transferred it to another group of Semites, the Arabs. Only now it wears a robe and headdress instead of a yarmulke and a Star of David.”

At least 60 Muslims died on September 11, including Abdul Salam Mallahi and Mohamad Salman Hamdani, who died while helping others escape the trade towers. There is now a Salman Hamdani Street in Queens.

September 11 exacerbated already existing anti-Islam sentiment. On that violent day, Reno radio host Rusty Humphries called for more violence, for turning the Middle East into a “sheet of glass,” an overreach so extreme it in effect also called for destruction of Israel.

Other faiths have also been victimized in the fashion of the Sparks Center. On New Year’s Day in 2001, 48 minutes into the new year, the new century and the new millennium, three arsonists—one of them wearing a shirt bearing a cross—torched Temple Emanu-El in Reno.

Hacking can be prosecuted either locally or federally. In the state, computer crimes are covered by Nevada Revised Statutes chapter 205. At the federal level, it is the National Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. There is a section of the NCFAA that also empowers the Secret Service to act. Penalties depend on the nature of the hacking and prior offenses.

In recent days, anti-Islamic incidents have happened in politics. In the West Virginia capitol, Republicans set up an anti-Islam display in the rotunda linking September 11 to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The display used a photograph of the World Trade Center in Manhattan as one of the planes struck a tower, and a fireball burst out. That image was placed above a photograph of Rep. Omar, a Democrat.

In a floor speech, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, a Republican, told his colleagues, “I bluntly struggle with what even to say. We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state … to invade our chamber in a way that makes me ashamed.”