On Saturday June 24, as the Sacramento Bee reported, an unnamed “citizen” flagged down a cop and led him to the Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento. There the officer discovered “a burned Quran filled with bacon, hanging by a handcuff from a fence.” The sheriff promptly dispatched “hate crime detectives” to investigate.
The previous night, during Ramadan Taraweeh prayers at the Islamic Center of Davis, “someone driving by in a car threw pages torn out of a Quran.”
Local CAIR executive director Basim Elkarra told CNN that both incidents were “apparent acts of intimidation.” Decisive action by law enforcement, Elkarra said, “sends a strong message of deterrence to anyone who contemplates turning their bigoted views into acts of intimidation.” The Davis mosque had been the site of a previous incident, and an episode in that bizarre case played out the previous week.
On June 16 in Yolo County Superior Court, Judge Daniel P. Maguire sentenced Lauren Kirk-Coehlo to five years probation for the felony hate crime of vandalizing the Davis mosque. Kirk-Coehlo was released from jail and ordered to attend psychiatric counseling sessions and stay off social media. She is also prohibited from owning a firearm, but none was used in the incident.
On the night of January 22, two days after the inauguration of Donald Trump, Kirk-Coehlo placed strips of bacon on the door of the Davis Islamic Center before vandalizing bicycles and smashing windows. In the surveillance video, she moved slowly, making no effort to conceal her face.
Indeed, she practically posed for the camera, wearing a hat that resembled one of Trump’s Make America Great Again lids. At no point did Kirk-Coehlo seemed concerned that she might be caught, and she departed in a casual manner.
As it turned out, CAIR provided the surveillance video, and on February 14 police arrested Kirk-Coehlo, 30, an unemployed UC Berkeley grad with no criminal record. The former Google employee and legal intern had reportedly posted online messages expressing admiration for murderer Dylann Roof, adding that she would like to “kill many people.” She also made derogatory comments about Jews, African Americans and Mexicans.
Local officials proclaimed Kirk-Coelho a danger to the public and set bail at $1 million, 20 times the usual amount. Mohamed Kheiter of the Davis Islamic Center board told reporters “There is a lot of concern that we’re no longer safe,” and that Muslims were “really afraid.” Islamic Center president Amr Zedan explained, “Having an incident like this happen keeps you at unrest in your home. You never feel like you’re safe.”
Local CAIR boss Basim Elkarra issued a statement thanking local authorities for “their swift investigation and arrest in the case.” In radio interviews, Elkarra cited those “targeted by bigotry” and linked the incidents to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
Elkarra and other prominent Muslims failed to show up for Kirk-Coehlo’s first court appearance. As her sentencing date approached, one of her high-profile attorneys, Steven Sabbadini, explained that his client was “a bit of a feminist” who thought her actions “were an acceptable way of protesting the mistreatment of women” in Islam. And her menacing thoughts on social media had not been turned into action.
Kirk-Coehlo could have drawn a prison sentence of six years. Former Davis Islamic Center president Hamza El-Nakhal told reporters the probation was “very troubling not only to Muslims, but to African Americans and Latinos I have spoken with.” El-Nakhal also said Kirk-Coehlo was “almost family,” and went to school with his two daughters.
For his part, Basim Elkarra kept a low profile after Islamic jihadists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 innocents in San Bernardino in December of 2015. On the other hand, after the latest bacon-based incident Elkarra was the first on the scene, decrying bigotry and intimidation and telling CNN, “We have been seeing a lot of this type of case around the nation.”
News reports did not inquire whether any of the incidents might have been a hoax, part of a growing trend of fake hate crimes. In similar style, establishment press reports contained little information about the CAIR boss himself.
At UC Berkeley Basim Elkarra was a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and in April of 2000 he moderated an event featuring Hamas operative Mohammad Salah, labeled a terrorist by President Clinton. Even so, Elkarra became a member of the California Democratic Party’s executive board and in 2006 Senator Barbara Boxer gave the CAIR boss a certificate of appreciation for his “efforts to protect civil liberties and to build bridges among diverse communities in California.”
Boxer quickly revoked the award, explaining that her California office had not vetted CAIR sufficiently. In 2007 Basim Elkarra refused to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. The CAIR boss has also suggested that “Islamophobes” be prosecuted like Holocaust deniers. Elkarra has his defenders but in 2015 he failed to gain a seat on a local school board, his first run for public office.
If the CAIR leader plans to run in 2018 he would have some Islamic company. Dr. Asif Mahmood, a 56-year-old physician, wants to become lieutenant governor of California.
“As a Muslim immigrant from the great blue state of California,” the Democrat proclaimed as he entered the race, “I’ll be a triple threat to Donald Trump. I’m running for office to fight against him, and to fight for our families.”
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