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Muslim group wants federal help in hate crime inquiry

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POSTED February 6, 2014 1:26 a.m.

The nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization is now calling on state and federal law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation of what they’re calling a “possible hate crime” at a Manteca prayer center.

The Council for American-Islamic Relations’ Sacramento Valley chapter issued a press release detailing an incident on Jan. 28 that left the mosque on South Union Road smattered with raw bacon – Muslims don’t eat pork as a tenet of their religion – with anti-Islamic graffiti scrawled on the street sign and the ground entrance.

Manteca Police Department investigators, in a press release distributed on Tuesday, announced that they were officially classifying the matter as a “hate crime” – the graffiti spelled out f--- Islam – and are searching for a connection to an incident that happened in late November that left the same sign spray-painted with “No Allah – only God.”

That designation is an enhancement to any charges that may arise as a result of the vandalism that could significantly increase the penalties for anybody convicted of the crime.

“Because of the nature of the vandalism and the fact that the mosque has been targeted in the past, we urged state law enforcement authorities and the FBI to investigate this disturbing incident as a possible hate crime,” said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra.

Manteca has long had an active Muslim population that hasn’t shied away from its religion or making it public within the community.

Before the mosque – which backs up to Sequoia Heights Baptist Church on South Union Road near the intersection with Wawona Street – was constructed, local Muslims gathered for holy prayers and big religious events at a series of locations.

The local Imam – a position that serves a local community and worship leader – was vocal in the fundraising efforts needed to construct the church, and spoke at the time about how Manteca was accepting of other faiths and ideas. The church opened in June of last year.

A website – www.icomanteca.org – lists the congregation’s prayer times, upcoming events and information about the Islamic faith – including the “Five Pillars” and the ayah (Quran verses) and hadith (report on the deeds and words of Mohammed) of the month.

Anybody with any information about what transpired the evening of Jan. 28 is urged to contact Manteca Police Department Detective Jason Bonetti at (209) 456-8167 or the South County Crime Stoppers at (209) 823-4636.

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