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Clifton man charged with bias over feces smeared on Paterson … – NorthJersey.com

PATERSON — A Clifton man was charged Friday with fourth-degree bias intimidation for allegedly vandalizing a sign at a local school, authorities said.
Mohamad Bekheet, 32, smeared suspected feces on the sign in front of Dr. Hani Awadallah School, a K-8 building on Marshall Street in Paterson, according to state Attorney General Matthew Platkin.
The substance covered the last five letters of Awadallah’s name; “Allah” means “God” in Arabic.
The vandalism was first discovered on Saturday, a day before an imam at a mosque on Getty Avenue was wounded in a knife attack. The suspect in that case was not charged with a bias crime, but authorities believe he intended to kill the prayer leader.
Bekheet was also charged with criminal mischief and harassment in connection with the alleged vandalism, which was investigated by Paterson police, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the state Division of Criminal Justice.
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“Bias crimes spread like cancer through a community, creating fear and distrust, and undermining everyone’s sense of peace and security,” Platkin said in a statement.
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, called for a probe in a statement it released to denounce the vandalism.
The organization said it recorded the highest number of anti-Muslim prejudices last year, at 152, and that such complaints spike during the holy month of Ramadan.
“This upward trend of complaints is wholly unacceptable,” the organization said in its statement. “Interfaith leaders and community members in Paterson have worked hard to make the city welcoming and inclusive of people of all faiths, and we must come together to show that behaviors like this are not only unwelcome, but condemnable.”
Awadallah, 70, who died in January 2012, was a chemistry professor at Montclair State University and the director of the city-based Arab American Civic Organization.
Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Email: devencentis@northjersey.com

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