Police investigating fake website for Wheaton mosque

  • Police are investigating emails sent to Wheaton officials that included a link to a fake website for the Islamic Center of Wheaton. The website, taken down Tuesday afternoon, promoted violence and radicalism.

    Police are investigating emails sent to Wheaton officials that included a link to a fake website for the Islamic Center of Wheaton. The website, taken down Tuesday afternoon, promoted violence and radicalism.

  • The Islamic Center of Wheaton opened in 2013, in a space once occupied by the First Assembly of God Church in Wheaton.

    The Islamic Center of Wheaton opened in 2013, in a space once occupied by the First Assembly of God Church in Wheaton. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 1/12/2016 4:40 PM

Police are investigating a fake website promoting violence and radicalism that was designed to look like it belonged to the Islamic Center of Wheaton.

Wheaton Police Chief Jim Volpe said an email with a link to the fake website was sent to the police department and Wheaton officials Thursday.

 

"Our first concern was, 'Is this our Islamic center putting this out?' and we quickly found out it wasn't," he said.

The center has issued a statement saying the fake website is "full of hatred and lies." The fake website claims sharia law is coming to Wheaton, praises the San Bernardino, California and Paris attackers and includes images of children holding guns and Islamic State flags.

"ICW remains committed to Islam's values of peaceful coexistence and positive outreach to our neighbors, and this hateful act will not change that," said Abraham Antar, president of the mosque and community center located at 900 E. Geneva Road. "We are extremely concerned for the safety of our community and trust that law enforcement will get to the bottom of this."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago called the fake website "malicious, dangerous and laden with criminal components."

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said in a statement that the fake website "speaks volumes" about the nature and agenda of anti-Muslim extremists.

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"Here you have someone who is threatened by Muslim moderation, positive community relations and exemplary interfaith work," he said. "They have an interest in faking a radical agenda on behalf of ICW; they do not feel threatened by radicalism, but by moderation. They feel well-served by radicalism."

Anyone who received an email with a link to the fake website, www.ICWonline.today, is being asked to contact police. Authorities advised not to click on links on the fake website, warning they might be malicious, but the website appeared to be taken down Tuesday afternoon. A message on the website says it has been "seized pursuant to an order issued by a U.S. District Court," but also features fake emblems for the "U.S. Department of Muslim Sensitivity" and "City of Wheaton Anti-Parody Unit."

The center's real website is www.ICWonline.org.

Islamic Center of Wheaton and CAIR-Chicago officials say the fake website is a "cyberattack." Volpe called it "a spoof."

"It's not that uncommon for us to get reports from citizens saying someone is putting something online that wasn't true," he said. "It's very easy to do, whether it's high school kids setting up fake Facebook accounts or somebody setting up a website. It's hard to track them."

National authorities have also been called upon by CAIR-Chicago to investigate the fake website.

"Our role is to find out who created this website," he said, "and that's what we're actively doing."

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