The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston office said Friday the region is seeing an uptick in anti-Muslim messages, and he plans to act swiftly to put an end to incidents like the threatening notes found in Revere earlier this week.
“We need to nip this in the bud,” said Boston Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi. “I’m worried that we’re going to see more and more of this.”
Lisi’s comments came as the FBI’s Boston office revealed it was looking into the Revere incident, in which anti-Muslim notes were found near the Revere Beach MBTA station on Monday. On the same day, the office launched a civil rights probe into vandalism at an Islamic school in Rhode Island. The FBI said the Rhode Island and Revere incidents do not appear to be related.
Lisi said widespread anger over the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State, known for Internet videos showing the beheadings of civilians, journalists, aid workers, and soldiers, may be fueling the anti-Muslim activity. However, he said, he is not certain what is behind these episodes.
“I’m hoping that’s what it is, but that doesn’t make it right,” Lisi said.
In Revere, Lisi said, the FBI is helping local police identify who was behind the anti-Muslim missives, including multiple messages left in a snowbank close to the corner of Beach Street and North Shore Road.
Some residents posted photos of the notes on Twitter. One read, “We must kill all Muslims in America Destroy + burn all Koran books.” “All Muslims will be killed in America + Europe,” read part of another.
Lisi said once authorities determine who was behind the notes, they will examine what motivated the hateful messages.
Revere Police Chief Joseph Cafarelli said detectives met Friday afternoon with an FBI agent.
“We take any threat against any demographic of our community seriously,” he said. “It’s disturbing to say the least.”
Cafarelli said officers were reviewing video surveillance and expected to get footage from cameras at the MBTA station, Massachusetts General Hospital Revere HealthCare Center, and private residences.
The head of the police department’s detective unit has been doing outreach work with the Muslim community, and Cafarelli said he planned to meet with a local imam. Muslims in Revere have supported the police efforts, he said.
“It’s appreciated that we’re taking it seriously and looking out for the best interest of the community,” Cafarelli said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said the FBI involvement is appreciated.
Ibrahim Hooper, the council’s national communications director, said Muslims have been the victims of several recent attacks, the “most horrific” being the shooting deaths of three Muslim-Americans in North Carolina.
“We would welcome the FBI taking up this case and hope that they can bring the perpetrators to justice once an investigation is completed,” Hooper said.
In Rhode Island, the FBI is investigating offensive graffiti at the Islamic School of Rhode Island in West Warwick.
School officials have said the entrance was tagged with orange graffiti that read “Now this is a hate crime,” “pigs,” and offensive references to Mohammed.
Hilmy Bakri, president of the board of trustees for the Islamic School of Rhode Island, said the FBI’s announcement “is further encouragement that everyone should speak out and help law enforcement to capture people who commit vandalism and hate crimes.”
Messages left for the West Warwick police were not returned Friday.
Lisi encouraged the public to step forward if they have information about possible civil rights violations.
“We’re asking for the public’s help,” he said. “There needs to be some public awareness out there that we’re not going to tolerate this behavior.”