RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) -– A campaign billboard for a Raleigh city council candidate was spray painted with racist graffiti sometime Thursday night or Friday morning.
A billboard for Zainab Baloch had the words “SAND N*****” and “TRUMP” with what also appeared to an attempt at a swastika painted on one side.
The billboard is located in front of land being cleared for mosque on Louisburg Road just south of Interstate 540.
Baloch said she is hurt by the incident but going to use this as a platform for discussion.
“It was just emotional. It was disheartening. It hurt, especially because we’ve been working so hard on this campaign,” Baloch said.
Some of Baloch’s friend’s noticed the graffiti while driving on Louisburg Road and notified her. Wake County deputies are investigating and said no one witnessed the vandalism. No surveillance cameras appear to be in the area, deputies said.
“It’s not just me,” Baloch said. “This is on my face, I’m Muslim but the words used are derogatory towards African Americans, towards Jews. There’s a neo-Nazi symbol there, this isn’t just a Muslim issue. This is where our country’s political climate is right now.”
Her friends and others in the Muslim community rallied around her.
“I was shocked, a little bit scared,” said supporter Sarah Quadri.
According to Baloch’s website, she is a Raleigh native whose parents immigrated from Pakistan.
“This stuff exists and for us to keep brushing it under the rug is the reason it keeps happening. We’re not having these conversations as a community. When you have conversations you break down barriers, you let people know you are and you don’t have as much hateful rhetoric,” Baloch said.
Just after 2 p.m., the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization,” condemned the vandalism.
“This type of hate incident seeks to prevent positive civic engagement by all our nation’s citizens, thereby undermining the very foundation of democracy,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper in a news release. “Americans across the political spectrum must condemn this hate-filled act of intimidation.”
Earlier this year, CAIR released data showing an increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationally, including a 91 percent increase in hate crimes in the first half of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016. The organization documented 134 such incidents this year compared to 70 incidents last year.
“It’s really alarming,” said Faisal Khan, founder and director of the Carolina Peace Center. “We’re seeing more and more Islamophobia, more and more anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim racist assault and attacks.”
Baloch said she’s concerned the current political climate will fuel further incidents.
“The day after the election, my community came together and organized and tried to figure out how we were going to deal with the increase of hate crimes,” she said. “We need a voice in government that’s gonna represent all people and who are gonna speak and come from a background that understands people who are marginalized.”