A Texas man was arrested earlier this week after walking into a mosque and wiping his feet on the carpet while screaming obscenities at worshipers.
Witnesses said Mariano Talavera wore military-style clothes and carried an American flag and a large backpack Tuesday afternoon into the Islamic Center of San Antonio, where he then started rubbing his boots on prayer mats, reported KENS-TV.
Worshipers asked Talavera to remove his boots out of respect, but he instead walked into the nearby women’s prayer room — dragging his feet with every step and screaming obscenities about the Islamic religion.
Muslims typically remove their shoes before praying to avoid tracking dirt from outside into the sanctuary’s symbolically clean space, and visitors are also asked to do so before entering mosques.
Witnesses called police, who arrived and asked Talavera what business he had at the mosque.
Talavera claimed he was there to worship, but officers were skeptical and arrested him on criminal trespassing charges.
Police seized his backpack, but they haven’t said what he was carrying inside it.
The president of San Antonio’s Council on American-Islamic Relations said vandalism and other crimes against Muslims have spiked recently in Texas.
Vandals hurled feces and a befouled Koran at the entryway to a mosque near Austin following last week’s Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris.
Mosques elsewhere in the U.S. have also been targeted for threats or vandalism.
Solomon Hamide, president of the Islamic Center of San Antonio, said he and other mosque members did not wish to press charges against Talavera because they fear additional backlash.
He also thanked community members who called to offer their support, especially a woman who invited the mosque’s members to celebrate Thanksgiving next week at her home.
Watch this news report posted online by KENS-TV: