TWIN FALLS • The first letter arrived Aug. 20 without a return address. It was addressed to “Neighbor.”
When Imad Eujayl opened it, he found two typed pages with passages from the Quran, and directly below them, passages from the Bible.
Eujayl, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Twin Falls, and about 10 other members and their non-Muslim neighbors, each received two or three of the letters in the last month. Eujayl feels the letters are a form of harassment and the passages have no context. Some are from historical stories, he said. The passages have also been taken from the Hadith, a record of the prophet Mohammed’s life, the founder of Islam.
Eujayl brought up the subject of the letters during jumu’ah, or Friday prayers, at the Islamic Center of Twin Falls.
“Because I am responsible for the communication, I brought this up,” he said. “I think it’s unfair. There is no return address so we can respond and I may correct you. It’s not a civil way to communicate, in our opinion.”
Eujayl suspects someone is going through the phone book and picking out Muslim-sounding names. A neighbor of a Muslim community member also received one of these letters, but she is Christian.
“She has a typical Bosnian name,” Eujayl said. “From the mid-90s, 2,000 Bosnian Muslims have come here and these Muslims were persecuted by whom? Christians. And they come to live here with Christians and that is great. So not all Christians are the same.”
An estimated 1,000 Muslims live in the Magic Valley. Eujayl has lived in the Magic Valley for eight years and works as a scientist. February will mark 20 years that he has lived and worked in the United States.
Eujayl has not filed a report with the Twin Falls Police Department, nor have others who have received them. He said many probably threw them away thinking they were junk mail.
“Those people who have left very unsafe places, who come here and are now safe, they shrug it off,” Eujayl said.
But Eujayl declined to identify other members of the Islamic Center who received letters for fear of their safety.
Joshua Palmer, city spokesman, encouraged people who received letters to contact police.
“If there is any thought, concern or fear of safety for themselves or others, we would like to know about it” Palmer said. “It’s hard to say how we would respond without seeing what is in the letter, but we want to help.”
Palmer said diversity is extremely important to the city of Twin Falls and is included in its strategic plan.
“We provide the services that includes health and safety,” he said. “We provide that for all citizens regardless of background or ethnicity.”
The Refugee Center at the College of Southern Idaho — in Twin Falls since the early 1980s — became controversial this year after news came out that Syrians could be among the refugees to be resettled here. Shahram Hadian, an anti-Muslim pastor, has twice been invited to speak in the Magic Valley.
Despite this, Eujayl said, the Muslim community has not had any major problems. They often hold interfaith meetings with members of other religions, he said.
Recently, some young Muslim women were yelled at in the store where they work. They were told, “Go back home, you don’t belong here,” Eujayl said. In 2011, shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, someone spray-painted a swastika on the Islamic Center. The building hasn’t been vandalized since.
Just to be safe, Eujayl said, he often notifies police whenever the Islamic center holds a big event.
Palmer said the police department has had requests to be present at meetings where there might be concerns for safety. Sometimes a plainclothes officer is sent or patrols are done in the area.