Man Held in Religious Hate Crimes


Muslim fundamentalist is believed to have attacked statues of the Virgin Mary.


November 7 2001

Prosecutors are pursuing charges of religious hate crimes against a self-styled Muslim fundamentalist suspected of attacking statues of the Virgin Mary at Roman Catholic churches in Los Angeles and Culver City.

Emad Ibrahim Saad, 35, of Los Angeles is accused of decapitating the Virgin Mary statue at St. Augustine's church and school in Culver City, cutting a hand off that church's statue of Saint Rita and carting the church's statue of Father Junipero Serra, cut off at the feet, a mile away to a mosque.

Muslim magazines were found at various entrances to the church, along with fliers that said, "Allah is the only true God," after the vandalism that occurred during the Sunday evening Mass on Oct. 28. Police say Saad also is suspected of hitting statues of the Virgin Mary with stones, damaging them, at St. Anselm's and St. Raphael's Catholic churches in South-Central Los Angeles on Oct. 24 and 25 respectively, and of vandalism at what they describe only as "a Los Angeles tabernacle" on Oct. 30.

At a bail hearing Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Thomas Herman rejected Saad's request for a bail reduction and set his preliminary hearing for Nov. 20. Saad is being held on $70,000 bail.

Saad remained silent but smiled and waved at his veiled wife and five children in the courtroom.

His attorney, Kevin D. Greber of Bellflower, said he could not comment on the case.

Both the principal of St. Augustine's school, Norman Mezey, and the community liaison for King Fahd Mosque, Usman M. Madha, depicted the events involving their places of worship as an unsuccessful attempt to cause a rift between the two houses of worship.

Mezey said that Madha immediately notified police upon finding the heavy, bronze statue of Father Serra leaning against his mosque, built several years ago as a gift of the Saudi Arabian king, and that he has been to St. Augustine's to apologize.

Madha said that Saad is not a member of the mosque, although he said he showed up there after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, and was asked to leave twice after behaving strangely.

In one episode, Madha said, Saad disguised himself as a woman in an attempt to enter the mosque after he had been told to leave.

"I am very, very sad that anyone, even not a part of our mosque, is suspected of going out and perpetrating what I consider a criminal act, and then try to involve our mosque," Madha said.

"The fathers at St. Augustine were very kind and very gracious to invite me to speak to their congregation. I spoke at six Masses to clarify that the incident that took place has nothing to do with Islam."

Mezey said that the week before the statues were attacked, Saad had appeared at the church to distribute Muslim leaflets and had been asked to leave.

"We feel violated," the school principal said. "Mostly, we are concerned for the safety of our kids, and we'd hope the purpose could be determined."

Dawn Flicker, a religion teacher at the school, said both students and their parents had been torn by the incident after seeing the remains of the statues.

"At the same time, we teach forgiveness here, and so we have to forgive the man," she said.

Prosecutor Denise Moehlman said after Tuesday's hearing that the hate crime unit in the district attorney's office had decided to charge Saad with only the St. Augustine's incidents, since evidence was strongest there. She said prosecutors believe Madha is a member of the King Fahd Mosque.

Greber, Saad's attorney, said that if he is to be charged in only one incident, the others should not have been mentioned Tuesday.

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