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An Islamic Center Near Orlando Was Vandalized

The words “#StopTheHate” were spraypainted on the Husseini Islamic Center wall.

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A mosque just outside Orlando, Florida, was vandalized Monday, authorities said after the spraypainted hashtag #StopTheHate was discovered on the building’s exterior.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office responded to a call Monday afternoon after someone at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford noticed the graffiti, Kim Cannaday, an officer with the Sheriff’s Office, told BuzzFeed News.

“That is all we have to go on at this point, but we believe it happened after midnight,” Cannaday said.

Vandalism was discovered on the outside walls of the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford #WFTV #OrlandoShooting

The center hired private security for the building after the Orlando massacre, but the guard left at 2 a.m., according to the incident report.

The center is located just 20 miles outside of Orlando, where Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, killing 49 and injuring 53. He died in a gunfight with police.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, the same day of the Orlando massacre, the center condemned Mateen’s acts. Center officials said they “share the grief and sorrow of the nation and stand united with the Central Florida community and City of Orlando.”

“Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to the families and loved ones who are victims of this tragedy,” the statement read.

A representative from the Husseini Islamic Center did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

The center, along with other Muslim organizations, is raising funds for the “immediate, short-term needs of the grieving families,” according to a fundraising page. Members have also distributed food and water to who waited in line to donate blood for the injured.

In March, local residents were angered when Dr. Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a Shiite Islamic scholar, gave a talk at the center on women’s issues — including a talk titled “How to deal with the phenomenon of homosexuality,” according to a report by Orlando TV station WFTV.

The report also showed Sekaleshfar giving a speech at the University of Michigan, three years prior, on “Islam and Homosexuality.” In regards to homosexuality in Islam, he said, “Death is the sentence. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”

In the 91-minute video, which is posted online, Sekaleshfar expounds on his various interpretations of Islamic law on homosexuality. At one point, he said the act of homosexuality itself should be hated, and not the person. He said that people who engage in homosexual acts should still be considered Muslims.

When Fusion asked him about the WFTV report, Sekaleshfar said that his words were taken out of context: “I never gave the call to a death sentence.”

Sekaleshfar did not immediately respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.

A representative from the center also told Fusion the management there was “unaware of these remarks when he was invited.”

“Please understand that the singular views of guest speakers do not represent those of the Husseini Islamic Center,” the representative said to Fusion. "We want to reiterate that nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify yesterday’s atrocious actions."

When asked about the attack on the Pulse nightclub, Sekaleshfar said, “I am totally against the barbaric act of violence that has happened. In no way at all can such a killing be justified Islamically.”

He also called Mateen, the shooter, “an ill and perverted, animalistic entity who has abused an ideology to satiate his sad, twisted desires.”

Thumbnail image from Ahlulbayt: Documentaries.

Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2

Contact Talal Ansari at talal.ansari@buzzfeed.com.

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