Vandalism outside the Islamic Center of Suffolk County in Brentwood early Monday morning left a sacred religious flag burned and its base scrawled with pro-Donald Trump graffiti, officials said.
Detectives with the Suffolk police Hate Crimes Unit and Arson Section are investigating the incident, which occurred at 2 a.m. outside the Shah-E-Najaf mosque on Third Street, according to police.
Ali Naqvi, who serves on the executive board of the Jafria Association of North America, which operates the center, said shared fencing with a church next door to the mosque was cut open, allowing access to the mosque's grounds.
Alam, a red and white flag that symbolizes peace and justice, was found partially burned while someone had written Trump's name and other messages supporting the former president on the flag's marble base, said Syed Naqvi, president of Jafria association.
"JANA calls on the Suffolk County Police Department to ensure that the incident is investigated swiftly as a hate crime and that the perpetrators are brought to justice," Naqvi said in a statement. "The defacement of any place of worship is deeply offensive and hurtful and the burning of the Alam and the accompanying message on the Shah-E-Najaf mosque clearly constitute a hate crime."
Authorities said they were checking surveillance video of the incident.
"What's really disturbing is they took the effort to destroy one of the most sacred elements of the mosque itself, which is this flag," said Ali Naqvi. "It's one of those flags that is very sentimental to people."
The flag has since been replaced while the graffiti has yet to be removed, Ali Naqvi said.
The mosque has faced previous acts of vandalism.
Islamophobic material was dropped around the grounds of the facility in 2016, while swastikas were written on the driveway of the mosque in 2014, officials said. In a 2007 break-in, swastikas and "White Power" were written on the mosque walls.
"JANA calls on local politicians and security officials to demonstrate leadership by standing firm against all forms of hate," Syed Naqvi said. "They must investigate this hate crime incident as a matter of urgency and bring the criminals responsible to justice."
Detectives are asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.