Evergreen Park grave site vandalized for sixth time, police say

Hassan Mustafa Hassan Abdallah is one of hundreds of Muslims buried alongside people of other faiths in Evergreen Cemetery.

But Abdallah's grave is the only one that has been repeatedly targeted by vandals, and neither police nor his family know why.

This week, Abdallah's grave was vandalized for the sixth time in the last 17 months, even though he died more than a decade ago, Evergreen Park police said today.

Cemetery employees called police Thursday after they found anti-Muslim slogans and gang symbols scrawled on a headstone, a bench and a concrete slab at his grave, police Lt. Pete Donovan said. Anti-gay slogans were also visible on the grave site this morning as a worker tried to remove the graffiti.

Police suspect the same person or group of people is responsible, although they're not sure of the motive, Donovan said.

"I can't speculate," Donovan said. "I don't know if they're doing it because of race or if maybe there was some connection (with Abdallah). Hopefully that will come out in the investigation when we find this person."

Abdallah's widow said she views the vandalism as a hate crime and thinks her husband's gravesite has been targeted because it's one of the biggest in the cemetery.

"I feel certain that it has nothing to do with him individually," said the woman, who spoke on the condition that her name not be published. "It's just hate crimes against Muslims."

Abdallah was born in 1926 outside Jerusalem and moved to the Chicago area in the late 1940s, his widow said. He served as Jordan's consul general in Chicago for about 17 years and died in 1999 at age 73, she said.

"He was a fabulous person and loved by everyone," his widow said. "He was a man of peace. I don't think (the graffiti) has anything to do with him in particular."

Donovan said it appeared as if this week's graffiti had been written with a black marker. Black markers and charcoal have been used in past incidents, Donovan said.

The first incident was reported in March 2011, Donovan said. Three more incidents were reported last year, plus another one earlier this year, he said.

A cemetery spokeswoman said this week's vandalism probably occurred Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Although graffiti on the grave site in the past was removed with cleaning solutions, this week's graffiti will likely have to be sandblasted because the writing seems to be more permanent, she said.

Orland Park resident Charlie Khalil stopped by the cemetery on his way to work this morning to make sure the graves of his mother and several other relatives hadn't been vandalized. He said he doesn't know of any other problems at the cemetery, where Muslims have been buried for decades.

"I don't know what's going on," said Khalil, 44. "We're not bad people. We're just regular people. I don't know why people do this stuff … It's just ignorant people."

Abdallah's widow said she hopes the vandalism isn't taken lightly.

"I'm hoping that the cemetery will do something because my fear is that there's a deranged mind at loose in the community," she said. "A person who could repeatedly do this kind of thing may harm an individual in some way, some innocent family member who is visiting their loved one's grave."

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago issued a news release this morning saying that "a number of graves" had been desecrated, but Donovan said Abdallah's grave is the only one that was vandalized.

The council and other Muslim and interfaith organizations are planning to hold a rally against "hate and Islamophobia" today, according to the news release.

Antonio Perez contributed to this report.
Twitter: @RyanTHaggerty

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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