A possible hate crime against Peoria’s Muslim community is sending a powerful message.

“It reads as 1488, it could be 1988, but we think it’s 1488 and I believe that has some neo-Nazi connotations,” said Syed Ahmad with the Islamic Center of Peoria.

Those numbers were painted in pink over the sign out front early on Martin Luther king Jr. Day. That combination has deep roots with the Ku Klux Clan and Neo Nazi groups, causing concern for local religious leaders. 

“It’s unnecessary and I think it is, it’s representative and emblematic of where we are as a culture.”

Pastor Jim Powell is a member of peace for Peoria, a group aimed at showing similarities between faiths with the goal of stopping problems before they happen.  

“We need to give the peaceful Muslims, which is the majority of people; we need to give them opportunity and see them as individuals. That’s America,” Pastor Powell said.

“They need to be proud of who they are, Americans, Muslims and that they belong, that Peoria is home,” Ahmad said.  

That message isn’t always easy to get across given the current political climate. The group hopes by preparing meetings to discuss faith it can remove labels and stereotypes. 

“I think once people understand that we have these commonalities, at the end of the day, we can be united,” Ahmad said.

“There’s just so much ignorance and so much fear and we have to try and combat that,” Pastor Powell said.  

The Islamic center says it isn’t worried about vandalism or the possibility of future crimes.

“There’s no fear, it’s just a question of keeping your eyes open and using this as an excuse essentially to build better relationships with your neighbors,” Ahmad said.

The center says it didn’t have security cameras facing the sign when it happened. It says it doesn’t matter if the person committed the crime is ever found as long as unity prevails.