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US: New Mexico mosque vandalised, beer thrown on Quran

Congregants and Muslim organisations are calling on local authorities to investigate the incidents as hate crimes
Muslims worship during Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of New Mexico on 12 August 2022 in Albuquerque, New Mexico (AFP)

A mosque in New Mexico was vandalised numerous times and Muslims are asking for the police to investigate it as a hate crime.

Last week, vandals broke into Portales Islamic Center and allegedly ripped copies of the Quran and poured beer on its pages. They also allegedly stabbed holes in the walls, destroyed furniture, left rubbish and placed a framed painting of Jesus Christ on top of a pile of rubble.

A few days later on 23 June, vandals entered the mosque again and damaged the building's air conditioning unit, something leadership says could cost up to $40,000, KRQE News reported

In another incident at the mosque, KKK was painted on the wall, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group.

The Portales Islamic Center has a small congregation of around 20 people that mainly serves local university students. 

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The police chief of Portales issued a statement saying that these incidents were unlikely to be categorised as hate crimes.

"Our investigators are continuing to investigate this incident regardless of if it is or is not a hate crime," Christopher Williams told KRQE. He added that if a hate crime was determined, New Mexico guidelines stipulate that there would be a sentencing enhancement and not a separate criminal charge.

"At this time the damage is extremely similar to that on other vacant buildings in the area, which leads us to believe that this is more than likely not a hate crime... possible leads are being followed up on and the area is being monitored by officers."

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But the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, believes these incidents are hate crimes and is urging authorities to investigate them as such. 

"We condemn these attacks on a house of worship and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Portales. Based on the actions of the vandals, we call on law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for these crimes," a statement by Cair said.

"Due to the repeated targeting of this mosque, we urge local police to step up their patrols in the area."

These incidents come three months after fires at two Minneapolis mosques within two consecutive days.

In May, a man was arrested in connection with the two arson fires, as well as the targeting of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's office.

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