Commentary: Doing more to combat hate

Two young men not old enough to vote have been charged with vandalizing the Islamic School of Miami in West Kendall.

The charges include criminal mischief and evidencing prejudice while committing a crime. But this type of misbehavior goes much deeper than slashing tires and smashing windows at the mosque, which has been defaced, shot at and vandalized at least six times since 2005.

It's a sign of how much more this community needs to do to respect religious freedom and to not stereotype an entire group of people based on religious creed, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation or any other distinction.

Police say Juan Carlos Gonzalez-Vaca, one of the 17-year-olds accused in the vandalism, told officers: "All Muslims are terrorists." He and the other accused perpetrator, Michael Derek Lobo, confessed to the June 26 crime, according to law enforcement.

The judicial system will determine guilt or innocence. What cannot be ignored are the escalating number of hate crimes faced by a wide array of people because they are deemed "different."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, has documented a staggering 926 hate groups operating in the United states. That's more than a 50 percent increase since 2000.

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