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Bacon attack on an American mosque: prank or hate crime?

Strips of bacon spelling 'PIG' and 'CHUMP' were found in front of a South Carolina mosque Sunday. In post-9/11 America, pork – which is unclean in Islam – is a primary form of anti-Muslim protest.

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When he first spotted the strange graffiti, Mushtaq Hussain thought it was a juvenile prank: Somebody had used bacon strips on a sidewalk in front of a Florence, S.C., mosque to spell out the words "PIG" and "CHUMP."

But as Mr. Hussain, a board member at the Islamic Center in Florence, gave it some thought, the incident last Sunday seemed less like an ill-advised gag and more like a cunning and cruel affront. "We thought seriously, and we thought, ‘You know, somebody doesn't like us,' " he told WMBF-TV news in Florence.

Nationwide, polls show a growing ambivalence – or even anger – toward Islam among Americans, which has in part explained the opposition to a mosque near ground zero and mosques elsewhere, as well as the aborted mass burning of Korans by a Florida preacher. But subtler, more psychological attacks against Muslims have also become prevalent, say Muslim groups.

WATCH VIDEO: Build a 'mosque' near ground zero?

In those attacks, pork – which Muslims are forbidden to eat because it is considered unclean – is being used as a primary weapon, sent in packages to mosques, invoked in sharply worded letters, or, as in Florence, used to spell out literal messages.

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