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Police say boys damaging mosque had possible 'bias-based motive'

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 17. 2013 10:03PM

MANCHESTER — Police filed paperwork Tuesday in juvenile court that implicates two youth in this summer's vandalism of a mosque under construction, a possible hate crime against the Muslim worship site, police said.

Two Manchester boys, aged 11 and 13, were implicated Tuesday in the July vandalism where every window in the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester mosque was shattered, said police Lt. Maureen Tessier.

She said police are still trying to identify a third culprit.

"There has been some information that suggests a bias-based motive," said Tessier, who would not provide additional details. However, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the perpetrators bragged of the vandalism online and left comments on anti-Muslim hate sites.

The Council attributed that claim to local police and leaders of the Manchester Muslim community.

"To me, it looks like a hate crime, but we still haven't gotten all the facts yet," said Dr. Salam Malik, a Londonderry resident and trustee of the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester. He praised the work of Manchester police and called the vandalism an aberration for New Hampshire, where he said Muslims are generally well accepted.

The mosque is on Lagrange Avenue, which runs off Karatzas Avenue. The vandalism was reported on July 25, police said. Every window on the two-story structure was shattered by a rock or brick. The culprits also entered the building, dispensed foam from spray canisters on-site, and did general mischief-type damage, Tessier said.

"We are all sensitive to places of worship being damaged, regardless of the motive," Tessier said. "We were certainly pleased to have found the individuals responsible for it."

She said the two do not meet the legal requirements needed to be certified for adult prosecution.

Malik said the thermal windows had been installed just weeks before they were broken. He said the damage amounted to $33,000.

Construction on the mosque started about five years ago. Work moves forward whenever leaders amass enough donations and volunteer labor, Malik said. Last year, they made the building weather tight and construction is now focused on the interior, Malik said.

He expects it will take another two years to complete.

Local Muslim leaders have declined offers from outside the region, including the Middle East, to fund the construction. If outside money were accepted, it would have to be vetted, and the leaders would lose some control of the mosque, Malik said.

"It's a community project," he said, "we want our community involved in it."

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