A family returned home from a weekend away and found their apartment ransacked, their Quran torn to pieces and the words "F--- Muslims" scrawled on a wall, they told police.
The residents of an apartment in the Huntington section of Fairfax County, Virginia, told News4 their home was burglarized and vandalized over the weekend. The apartment still was in shambles Tuesday afternoon.
Their ornate Quran was torn up, and artwork with religious calligraphy was bent and thrown to the ground.
"I was crying. It was bad. It was bad," one of the victims, Mahrukh, said. She and her husband, Shoaib, asked that News4 use only their first names, for their safety.
The family members' green cards were taken, along with more than $25,000 worth of gold they received as wedding gifts, as is common among many Muslim families.
Police are investigating the crime as a burglary and a bias incident.
Photos show the hateful graffiti and torn-up Quran pages alongside children's toys.
The parents, who were born in Pakistan, got a call about 9:30 a.m. Monday from the apartment complex's management. A worker who entered the apartment to do maintenance discovered the damage.
Police believe the burglar or burglars entered through a patio door. The door lock was broken inside the frame.
Mahrukh said her first thought when she saw the damage was of their two young children.
"We did not want our kids to find out or look at this mess," she said.
"We were in complete shock. It's a dream. We're just going to open our eyes and it's all going to go away," Mahrukh continued. "Especially when we saw that written on the wall and the Quran torn to pieces on the floor, and my painting just torn apart and on the floor, that was just shocking."
The drawers and cupboards had been emptied, the beds were stripped, and the mattresses were overturned. But the discovery of the torn-up Quran was the most painful discovery, the family said.
Shoaib said the crime stunned him. He had felt safe in the neighborhood, where his family moved just last month from Dubai.
"Never in a million years would I imagine something like this would happen in the area. It's such a safe place and everyone we've ever met has been so nice," he said. "Apparently, bad people, they can be found anywhere."
Mahrukh and Shoaib said they believe who ever damaged their home meant to burglarize it and then vandalized it once they realized they were in a Muslim home.
Shoaib addressed why he chose to speak publicly about the crime.
"We wanted to get the word out there that this cannot be normalized. This cannot become a normal thing," he said.
Fairfax County police are investigating. No information on a suspect was released.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, is calling for a hate crime investigation.
"What may have begun as a break-in clearly ended as a possible hate crime," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. "The message of hate left at the scene and the damage done to religious texts indicate the need to investigate a bias-motive for this crime."
Elected officials and faith leaders met in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, on Friday amid a rash of threats and hate crimes. "We're going to use every resource we can to bring those people who are causing these crimes to justice," Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said.
The number of bias incidents reported in Fairfax County increased from 60 in 2015 to 83 in 2016, Patch reported.
A Jewish day school in Fairfax was evacuated last month due to a bomb threat. A mosque in Falls Church received an envelope that said "Kill all Muslims" earlier this month. And officials from across the D.C. region say they are addressing a spike in hate crimes.
Friends of Mahrukh and Shoaib's family started a GoFundMe page to help them rebuild.
"You matter to this community and to this country," one donor wrote.