After vandals wreaked havoc on the Muslim Student Association suite last week, Imam Talal Eid, Brandeis University's Muslim chaplain, said the theft of his Quran "is what keeps me upset."

After vandals wreaked havoc on the Muslim Student Association suite last week, Imam Talal Eid, Brandeis University's Muslim chaplain, said the theft of his Quran "is what keeps me upset."


"I use it for my sermon, and it had my notes in it - it's the work of two years," said Eid, his voice shaking slightly.


"The notes cannot be replaced, so I have to start all over again," said Eid, founder of the Islamic Institute of Boston (www.iiboston.net).


Eid is asking whoever has his Quran to "please return it."


Last Friday, just four weeks after $80,000 worth of renovations were completed, the Muslim Student Association's suite was vandalized, Eid said.


He hesitated to call the vandalism a hate crime, but others did not.


The suite, located in the Usdan Student Center, consists of a prayer room and place for ablution, a meeting place, a kitchen, and Eid's office, he said.


Vandals used utensils from the suite's kitchen to remove the caulking along an old door behind Eid's desk that had just been sealed, in an apparent attempt to open it, he said.


There is nothing behind the door, except maybe electrical wires, Eid said.


The vandals also unplugged his phone, computer, and all portable lights, which they also upended, Eid said.


Neda Eid, the imam's daughter and president of the Muslim Student Association, was the first to come upon the vandalism Friday morning and said she felt "a mixture of shock, frustration and anger."


Since word of the incident spread, she said, she has become upset at the reaction of some students who say it was not a hate crime.


"As a Muslim student, and as a person who walked into the suite first ... I felt violated, I felt they were messing with my head, and I felt offended. The way it was done was really manipulative and hurtful to me," she said.


The student group is low-key, and most people don't even know where they meet, largely because the space is so small and out of the way, she said.


"The fact that they chose this space to vandalize, whether or not it was that they hated Muslims, they still conveyed that," said Neda Eid.


She is adamant that as police investigate they should treat the case as a hate crime, not simply vandalism.


She said she wants to move forward and find a way to make the space "redeemed in comfort and reputation."


Brandeis is not to blame, she added, saying the vandalism only reflected the individuals who committed it.


"My experience here has been great, and the diversity here has a lot to do with why I came here," she said.


In his three years at Brandeis, Talal Eid said nothing like this has ever happened.


"It is very difficult, I'm not able to pinpoint the reason for the vandalism. We have a good relationship with everyone, in particular, with Jewish students," he said.


During the holy month of Ramadan, Jewish students bring their Muslim peers food after fasting, for example, he said, and students participate in a lot of interfaith activities.


"Everything is possible. We are not ruling out anything, including a hate crime. I (know it is not) any group trying to discourage us, but individuals," Talal Eid said.


Muslim students are organizing a peaceful protest, but have not yet set a date, Eid said.


Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon estimated 100 students are active in the Brandeis Muslim Student Association.


University leaders called the acts of vandalism "a sad moment for our Brandeis family."


In a joint statement issued by Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz, Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams, and chaplains the Rev. Walter Cuenin, Eid, Protestant Rev. Alexander Levering Kern and Rabbi Elyse Winick, school leaders said they stand together in condemning the vandalism.


Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said CAIR, the country's largest Islamic civil liberties group, is monitoring the case.


He said the council is relying on Talal Eid's judgment about whether the vandalism is a hate crime, and noted the theft of his Quran "adds evidence to a possible bias motive, but you never know."


"Unfortunately, we've had a spate of mosque vandalisms around the country recently, and often, there's not some graffiti that says, 'Death to Islam,' so in initial investigations, you can never label it categorically as a hate crime," Hooper said.


Neither Eid nor Hooper could guess what kind of message the vandals were sending, if any.


"We don't know. I mean, what kind of message could they be trying to give us? We're not doing anything wrong. I guess we have to keep watching and see if this thing will be repeated, or if it was just an isolated incident," Eid said.


The Muslim Student Association suite at Brandeis does not have a security camera, the imam said, but university police and school leaders are setting up an access card system.


Police are still investigating.


Hooper believes there is a good chance the vandals of the suite will be caught.


"Particularly on campuses, people will brag to their friends about what they've done, and word spreads and the perpetrator is caught," he said.


Daily News Tribune writer Joyce Kelly can be reached at 781-398-8005 or jkelly@cnc.com.