Police say vandalism at Islamic center a hate crime

Manteca-sign-2014Second attack on Manteca mosque
By Joe Goldeen, Record

MANTECA - State and federal authorities have been called upon by a national civil rights group to investigate as a hate crime the latest vandalism that occurred last week at the Islamic Center of Manteca.

"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 Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Sacramento Valley chapter.

The morning of Jan. 28, crude language attacking Islam was discovered spray-painted on the ground and defacing the mosque's sign at 1058 S. Union Road, and strips of raw bacon were found strewn on the parking lot, according to Manteca police. Since Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, bigots often use pigs or pork products to offend Muslim sensibilities, according to Elkarra.

Since the crime was reported, Elkarra said, "The Manteca Police Department has been very proactive. This is not the first time this has happened."

The new Islamic Center that was completed only in June was targeted Nov. 23 when its sign on Union Road was spray-painted with the words, "No Allah, Only God."

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jodie Estarziau said Tuesday, "We are considering it a hate crime and are investigating it. I believe our investigators have reached out to other organizations to obtain information that may assist with the investigation." Regarding the November incident, she said, "It has not been determined whether they are connected or not."

Mas'ood Cajee, a leader among San Joaquin County's Muslims, said that while his community is saddened by the most recent incident, "We have been really gladdened by the response. We are very, very proud by how the Manteca community has come out to support us, as neighbors and friends. It's a very welcoming community and that is why many people tend to say it is a very friendly community."

The local newspaper, after reporting the initial incident, "came out with a powerful editorial that spoke out against hate mongering. I am really very proud of all of that," Cajee said. (Read more)