Washington - A Hindu temple has been vandalised with hate speech in the US state of Washington, sending shock waves through the community in the area and prompting authorities to launch an investigation, Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.

The incident happened when unidentified miscreants sprayed swastika and painted “Get Out” on one of the walls of the temple in the Seattle Metropolitan area. It is one of the largest Hindu temples in the entire North West.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department is investigating this case as malicious harassment. On Monday top county officials visited the temple.

“This kind of thing should not happen in the US. Who are you telling to get out? This is a nation of immigrants,” Nitya Niranjan, chairman of board of trustee of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre, Bothell, Washington said. On Tuesday, the temple is celebrating Mahashivratri.

Niranjan said some kind of painting was sprayed on the outside wall of the temple a few years ago, but they did not bring it to the notice of the law enforcement authorities as nothing was written. “We have no idea, who did it,” Niranjan said.

While the temple has been there for nearly two decades, the construction on the second phase of the current building began recently. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) condemned the incident.

“The timing of this crime, occurring before a major Hindu festival, warrants special attention from law enforcement,” said Jay Kansara, director of Government Relations, Hindu American Foundation.

“We are encouraged by the ongoing thorough investigation of the Bothell City Police Department. HAF will continue to engage through the local community with city, state, and federal officials until the perpetrator is brought to justice,” Kansara said.

“Houses of worship are places where people should be able to be safe, at peace, and inspired to serve others,” said Padma Kuppa, HAF board member.

“Instead, the vandalism of the Hindu temple in Seattle and the arson of a mosque in Houston this past weekend incite fear and result in distrust among communities,” he said.

There has been a spate of anti-Hindu attacksacross the US in recent months. In August a murti of Shiva at the Vishwa Bhavan Hindu Mandir in Georgia state was desecrated with black paint. The phone lines of the temple in Monroe, near Georgia, were cut and graffiti wits hate messages were written on it. The local sheriff’s office arrested two people in connection with the attack.

Between July and October in Loudon County in Virginia, police documented 17 separate incidents of anti-Hindu vandalism, HAF said.

In response to these attacks, the US Justice Department has mandated the inclusion of anti-Hindu hate crimes as a category in crime-reporting forms starting in January.

In an incident involving an Indian, but not directly linked to his religion, 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel was attacked by a police officer in Madison in Alabama state and left partially paralysed. The officer was dismissed from the police force.

In Bothell, a government-run school was also defaced with a swastika and the words, “Muslims Get Out,” according to Q13 Fox.