US Muslim community campaigns to repair Jewish cemetery

Image source, AP
Image caption, The Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St Louis, Missouri, was vandalised on Monday

A US Muslim-led fundraising project to help repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised has raised more than four times its $20,000 (£16,000) target.

The crowdfunding campaign, which calls for "solidarity with the Jewish-American community", aims to help "rebuild this sacred space".

More than 170 headstones were damaged at the Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri on Monday.

It comes after a string of anti-Semitic threats targeting the Jewish community.

The fundraising effort, launched by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, has received over 3,000 donations and has raised more than $85,000.

"Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration," the fundraising page states.

Media caption, Aerial shots show headstones toppled at St Louis Jewish cemetery

The project, which is still accepting funds, aims to repair damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St Louis, but the campaigners said that any additional funds raised would be used to "assist other vandalised Jewish centres nationwide".

Vice-president Mike Pence visited the cemetery on Wednesday during a trip to St Louis.

"We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetuate it in the strongest possible terms," he told reporters travelling with him.

He added that "it's been inspiring to people all across this country to see the way the people of Missouri have rallied around the Jewish community with compassion and support".

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On Tuesday, the Muslim organisations the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations both spoke out against the vandalism.

"We encourage our members to reach out to their local synagogue and Jewish neighbours to express their solidarity and support and to generously support the rebuilding of the recently desecrated cemetery," ISNA President Azhar Azeez said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump described the recent threats targeting the Jewish community in America as "horrible and painful".

His response was criticised by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, which described it as "a pathetic asterisk of condescension".

In a scathing Facebook post, spokesman Steven Goldstein said: "When President Trump responds to anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that's when we'll be able to say this president has turned a corner.

"This is not that moment."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer countered by insisting his boss "has been very forceful with the denunciation" of racists and bigots.

"I wish that they [the Anne Frank Center] had praised the president for his leadership in this area. And I think hopefully as time continues to go by, they will recognise his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans," he said.

Image source, AP
Image caption, Muslim fundraisers hope to rebuild the cemetery as an act of solidarity

On Monday, 11 Jewish community centres across the country, including in the Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee areas, reported receiving hoax bomb threats.

Last week, 27 Jewish facilities in at least 17 US states received similar threats.

No bombs were found at any locations and normal services resumed following building evacuations.

The FBI said it is investigating the incidents in partnership with the US justice department.

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