Update: Maine's Muslims Seek to Educate Public About Islam After Hate Crime

July 10, 2006

Source: Bangor Daily News


On July 10, 2006 Bangor Daily News reported, "The tossing of a frozen pig's head into a Lewiston mosque last week has upset Muslims in northern Maine, the founder of the Islamic Center of Maine reports, even though the modest mosque on Route 2 has never been the target of vandals... [Mahmoud El-Begearmi of Bangor,] who has lived in Maine for 26 years, advised leaders at the Lewiston-Auburn Islamic Center to make a concerted effort to educate the community about the tenets of their faith and to invite the public to visit the mosque and attend services... El-Begearmi, a native of Egypt, knows how demanding a task that can be. The retired University of Maine Cooperative Extension program educator spent every weekend after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks traveling around the state dispelling what he saw as the myths and misunderstandings about Islam...

The incident, which has drawn international media attention, happened Monday night, July 3, at the Lisbon Street storefront used as a mosque as about 40 men bowed down according to their prayer ritual. After the pig's head rolled in, the men raced outside to look for the perpetrator. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, and the council contends the act was an insult to Muslims. Brent Matthews, 33, of Lewiston has been charged with the misdemeanor crime of desecrating a church. The Lewiston Police Department referred the case to the Androscoggin County district attorney as well as the state attorney general. Matthews allegedly told police that it was supposed to be 'a big joke,' Lt. Don Mailhot said. FBI agents have been conferring with police to determine whether federal hate-crime laws were violated, according to Lewiston police. Matthews, who is free on $200 bail, faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 if convicted of the criminal charge. The former Lewiston city employee could be in more trouble if the state decides to prosecute him under Maine's civil rights statute. If found guilty in the civil procedure, he could be fined $5,000 and ordered to stay away from the mosque and the city's Muslim community."