Police in Burlington City have recovered a strange painted statue of what appears to be a woman wearing a burka and holding a machine gun, after images of the statue outside a gas station were posted on social media.
The owners of the Gulf gas station at Route 130 South and High Street where the three-foot-tall statue was placed and his employees were not aware of the statue’s presence, according to Burlington City police, “and [were] appalled by what they observed.”
“They do not know why a person would place something of that sort on their property,” the police report continues. “In addition, where the statue was located was out of the view of the employee work area and not visible from the gas pumps.”
Burkas are part of traditional Muslim garb. Police did not state that the statue was placed as part of a bias-motivated act or hate crime.
But Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it sounded like it likely was.
“Based on the facts as reported, I would guess it was somebody who had a stereotypical view of Islam and Muslims,” Hooper said. “If it was designed to target the business owners, I think it would rise to the level of a bias-motivated incident. If that would rise to the level of a criminal incident, I don't know.”
However, an employee at the Gulf gas station said the owner is not Muslim — he is a Hindu man from India.
Gas station owner Gurmeet Singh was not available to comment.
"Bigots not being brain surgeons, we've had attacks on Sikhs for the turban and the beard. We've had Hispanic people attacked for thinking they were Muslim somehow,” Hooper said.
Police first heard about the statue in the early morning hours of April 18 from “an alarmed resident” who saw video of the statue on social media.
According to the Times of Trenton, the video has been viewed 15,000 times.
Police are investigating the placement of the statue.
“The Burlington Gulf Station and the employees that work there have served this community for over 17 years with minimal complaints with operating a busy gas station at an intersection like Route 130 South and High Street,” police said in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “In such a diverse community like the City of Burlington, we must ensure that all people are treated with dignity and not ‘stereotyped.’”
Police are asking any person with information pertaining to this incident to call Detective Matthew Mercuri at 609-386-0262 Ext. 273 or leave a confidential tip on their website at burlingtonpolicenj.com.