NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on authorities to investigate a possible bias motive in the vandalism of a mosque in Portales, New Mexico. CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation.

Last week, vandals broke into the Islamic Center and left thousands in damage. Ahmed Benssouda, who oversees the property, said the vandals ripped a Quran and poured a drink on it.

“They went in to rip the Quran, Holy Quran, and poured beer on it. They went in, stabbed, like, the whole entire like the drywall,” said Benssouda. Along with holes in the walls and a door, they found alcohol left behind, furniture destroyed, and trash everywhere. They even found a framed photo of Jesus Christ placed on top of the rubble.

The vandals then returned later in the week and damaged the building’s A/C unit. The Portales Police Department told News 13 that they’re still looking into what happened. So far, they’re not classifying the case as a hate crime.

Thursday, the Islamic Center was hit a fourth time with vulgar language spray painted on the wall. The caretaker of the Islamic Center in Portales said the constant break-ins are not only disrespectful to himself and his religion but the community as a whole.

“I feel that, honestly, with the respect that this is an example of not caring about the law,” said Ahmed Benssouda, the caretaker of the center.

The CAIR National Communications Direct Ibrahim Hooper released the following statement:

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

CAIR National Communications Direct Ibrahim Hooper

Portales police gave KRQE a statement saying:

“Our investigators are continuing to investigate this incident regardless of if it is or is not a hate crime.  In New Mexico if a crime is determined to be committed out of hate then it is 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 however, possible leads are being followed up on and the area is being monitored by officers.”

Chief Christopher Williams, Portales Police Department