The Los Angeles Times is reporting that "Members of a Pomona religious center believe vandalism discovered this week was a hate crime. But police say they have no proof yet."
"According to police, vandals broke into several classrooms and stole a 40-inch flat-screen television and a donation box and pay phone change box with unknown amounts of money.... In addition to damaging doors and stealing items, the intruders posted pornographic pictures on the mihrab, a prayer niche in the sanctuary that indicates the direction worshipers are to face...." Moreover, there was some damage to the mosque: "The frames of two classroom doors on the second floor were splintered and the door to a storage room on the first floor had a hole the size of a large watermelon. The door to a maintenance closet had been torn off its hinges, and a heating duct inside dislodged."
The problem, of course, is determining whether this incident was involved simple acts of robbery and vandalism, or whether this was indeed a hate crime. The police, as noted above, state there is as yet no proof of a hate crime. The imam admitted that he was "not sure about their motivations," referring to the perpetrators. Other members of the mosque, however, are not so skeptical: according to the article, some believe that with the recent events in London and feelings remaining from 9/11, this climate itself creates a presumption in favor of a finding that this was a hate crime. The imam questioned, if this was simple robbery or vandalism, then why the destruction itself - in other words, there was more to the incident than an interest in goods.
This situation highlights the difficulty with incidents involving members of certain communities, that is the sincerely held belief that there was racism undergirding the illegal acts, where there is currently an absence of direct evidence indicating that the acts were motivated by hate or bias.
We will follow the investigation as it unfolds in the press.
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