Raleigh city council candidate Zainab Baloch’s campaign sign was found vandalized Friday morning with a racial slur, the word "Trump" and a swastika.
The sign, placed at the site of a future mosque in North Raleigh, was vandalized just days before polls opened.
Baloch, a Muslim woman, is currently working toward a Master of Public Administration at UNC while she runs for office in Raleigh, where she grew up.
She said hate was somewhat expected, but the expectation did not lessen the vandalized sign's effect.
“It was disheartening and hurtful,” Baloch said. “Then it went to being angry and frustrated, to then being completely motivated with my team — this is exactly why we decided to run.”
Mohamed ElGamal, chairperson at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said things in North Carolina are not as bad as many people would think, but there is still work to be done.
“There are very few people who are really hateful, and it’s unfortunate to have this kind of minority, but the majority are really good people and understanding,” he said.
Baloch said she hopes to foster a dialogue about the racial and religious tensions surrounding her campaign.
"The love and outpouring of support we got after this was amazing, and it is what kept us going — but we can’t forget that we need to have this discussion, that people really do feel this way,” she said.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said in a statement on Facebook that the act was reprehensible and does not represent what Raleigh stands for.
“One of the things that makes Raleigh great is our diversity,” she said. “We are an accepting community that embraces all of our citizens. Raleigh is stronger because we work together to lift each other up. Anything that tries to tear us apart will not be tolerated.”
Nida Allam, third vice chairperson of the North Carolina Democratic Party, released a Facebook statement condemning the act.
“There is no room for this kind of hatred in North Carolina,” she said. “Our diversity is a strength, one we must celebrate and fight for by standing up against bigotry, white supremacy and racism. All North Carolinians deserve to feel safe and welcome in the state they call home.”
ElGamal said tensions and intolerance toward Muslims have always been present, but it has become more obvious after President Donald Trump’s election. He said he still wants Trump to succeed as president and remains optimistic.
“Yes, I am very optimistic, and I would say the great majority of the Muslim people are optimistic as well for the future,” he said.
Baloch encouraged young Muslims to be proud of their religion and identity.
“Don’t back down, don’t be scared of who you are and be proud of who you are,” she said. “I think one part of me, especially in this campaign that I’ve realized, is that it’s okay that I’m Muslim, and it’s okay that other people realize I’m Muslim, and it’s okay to talk about it."