Authorities are investigating a possible hate crime after the word "terrorist" was spray-painted on the walls surrounding a Sikh temple in Riverside.
The vandalism occurred sometime overnight Monday at the Riverside Gurdwara in the 7900 block of Mission Boulevard, said Riverside County sheriff's Deputy Albert Martinez. Investigators are treating it as a hate crime unless their inquiry reveals otherwise, he said.
Martinez said the department has notified other agencies, including the FBI.
High priest Anantvirr Singh told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that although graffiti had been written on the walls "many, many times," this latest incident was the first he considered hate speech.
Religious groups have condemned the vandalism, which came less than a week before the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. On Aug. 5, 2012, gunman Wade Michael Page killed six people and wounded four others before he killed himself.
“It is horrible to see an attack of hate on a place of worship as we reflect on the lives lost one year ago during the attack on the Oak Creek Gurdwara," Jasjit Singh, head of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement.
"Attacks and vandalism against any of the nation’s houses of worship must be condemned by all Americans," the statement continued. "These acts strike the very foundation of religious tolerance, a fundamental freedom this country was built upon."
Hussam Ayloush, head of the Greater L.A. office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his members "stand in solidarity" with the Sikh community.
"As we have stated many times, an attack on any house of worship is an attack on all houses of worship," he said in a statement.
Anyone with information about the incident was asked to call the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
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