Vandals who hit Hindu temple ‘have no idea what we stand for’

BOTHELL — Someone spray-painted a swastika and the words “get out” on their house of worship. They responded with a message of love.

Members from the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center arrived Sunday morning to find the hateful words and symbol scrawled on a temple wall.

“The people who did it, they have no idea what we stand for,” said Nit Niranjan, chairman of the temple’s board of trustees. “We have a very straightforward religion that stands for love and respect.”

Ironically, Hindus employed the swastika as a symbol of well-being and good fortune long before the Nazis appropriated it in 20th century Germany.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the vandalism, spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. No suspects have been identified.

Bothell police are investigating similar graffiti reported Sunday morning at Skyview Junior High School, about three blocks away, police Sgt. Cedric Collins said. The two swastikas found there were accompanied by messages targeting a different faith: “Muslims go home” and “Muslims get out.” Like the writing at the Hindu temple, the anti-Muslim writing at the school was in red paint.

By midday Monday, a devotee from the temple had painted over the graffiti. Preparations were in full swing for Maha Shivaratri, a religious celebration expected to draw hundreds of people to the temple on the corner of 212th Street SE and 39th Avenue, east of Bothell. The annual festival pays tribute to the deity Shiva on the day he was married to Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility.

This wasn’t the first time the temple has been targeted with graffiti.

It also happened several months ago, though that time there was no specific message, said Bhargavi Kumar, secretary of the temple’s board of trustees.

“It’s outrageous,” Kumar said. “We’d love to know who did it.”

The temple received calls and emails of support Sunday and Monday. A banner affixed to a utility pole down the street proclaimed: “We Stand With The Hindu Temple.”

County Executive John Lovick, the former county sheriff, learned about the graffiti Sunday from his daughter, who saw it on her way to a nearby church.

“This is a welcoming community and a thriving community and we’re not going to let that kind of hatred survive,” he said.

In November, a separate religious community in southeast Snohomish County was shocked by what many viewed as a targeted attack. Vandals destroyed Muslim headstones and memorials at the Islamic Cemetery of the Bosniaks in the Maltby area. Sheriff’s deputies at the time said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the act of desecration was a hate crime.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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