When news broke of vandalism to a sign at the Clinton Islamic Center, one logical assumption was the possibility the crime was motivated by religious intolerance.

Though it may never be proven, the two elements at play are the lack of similar vandalism reports from nearby properties and a tangible, increasing tension between the Muslim and non-Muslim world in recent years sparked largely by international events centered in Middle Eastern countries.

And whether or not anything was involved besides some moron going around breaking signs for no good reason, there’s never an excuse for vandalism at a church, mosque, temple, religious center or pretty much anywhere. Deliberate destruction or defacement of property has no place in a free society, not when there are so many legal avenues through which to voice a particular opinion.

Fortunately, the people at the Clinton Islamic Center are approaching this unfortunate circumstance with the best attitude possible. They simply invited people who may not understand the center’s purpose or the religion it serves to speak up and ask questions.

Dr. Qaiser Rasheed, president of the Islamic Society of Clinton County, could not have been more correct when he said “destroying property will not solve anything.”

All we see is a cowardly act carried out by one or more people under cover of darkness. We’d like to think it was just random, that the attack could have been carried out on any other lit sign in a somewhat rural part of town.

But chances are pretty good that there is some intolerance at play here, and we fail to understand why. When we see people first based on their color or religion instead of as our neighbors, we lose the ability to grow as a diverse community and perpetuate the notion that we are unwelcome to those different from us. And that’s just plain un-American.

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