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Painting of Jesus left on Islamic center sparks hate crime probe

(Wikimedia Commons/Gunasekar)Lorenzo Lotto's Painting of Jesus guarding Mary Magdalene at the Louvre Museum.

New York Police have launched a hate crime investigation after a painting of Jesus was found hanging on the fence of an Islamic center in Nassau county.

An employee at the Hillside Islamic Center in North Hyde Park alerted the police after he discovered a large turquoise painting of Jesus Christ on the cross, hanging on the fence at the center on Friday.

A surveillance camera has captured a video of the man placing the painting on the fence, according to the police.

Mosque officials stated that they do not find Jesus to be offensive, but the police are still investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, News 12 Long Island reported.

The mosque issued a statement saying the incident was a "teaching moment" that served to underscore the similarities between Muslims and Christians.

The New York branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil rights group, also released a statement urging the individual or group behind the painting to learn more about the beliefs of Muslims.

"Bias may have motivated this incident, but it could serve as a teaching moment for the perpetrator and for the community if it leads to greater understanding of the love Muslims have for Jesus, peace be upon him," the group stated.

CAIR has listed several Quranic verses, which they say demonstrate "the spiritual unity of the Abrahamic faiths."

"The spiritual legacy of Jesus (peace be upon him) should be a unifying factor for Muslims and Christians, not a source of division or bigotry," the group went on to say.

Last month, CAIR launched a mobile application that allows people to report bias incidents in the hopes of getting an accurate count of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S.

The application, called Making Democracy Work for Everyone, was launched after the group reported a 44 percent increase in the number of hate crimes reported by American Muslims last year, according to Reuters.

It will allow users to file a description of an alleged bias incident, which will then be investigated by CAIR staff. The group will include the incident in its reporting if it believes that it was the result of religious bias. Details will be shared with the police if the group believes that the incident was criminal.

The application also provides information about what rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution, and it contains contact information for CAIR's national headquarters in Washington and chapters nationwide.

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