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CAIR calls for probe of bias motive in vandalism against Islamic Center of Charleston

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on Charleston police to more closely scrutinize a possible bias motive in two recent cases of vandalism against the Islamic Center of Charleston.

"Every time a house of worship is targeted, whether it's a mosque, a church, a synagogue or a Sikh temple, it should be investigated for a bias motive," CAIR national communicators director Ibrahim Hooper said.

Charleston police are investigating the crimes as vandalism, spokesman Charles Francis said.

Part of the graffiti involved an indistinguishable symbol, along with the words "Utterly Blessed." Police are trying to identify three individuals whose actions were recorded by the center in two separate occasions in January.

"It's not one of those 'Death to Islam,' clear incidents," Hooper said. But whenever someone targets a place of worship specifically, it's cause for concern, he said.

Hooper said there's been an uptick in bias-motivated incidents against several of the nation's minority groups.

"Unfortunately, it's almost a daily occurrence," he said.

While the city of Charleston passed a hate intimidation ordinance in 2018, South Carolina remains one of two states without hate crime legislation.

Several groups in the state have expressed concern that, without those laws in place, they'll be increasingly vulnerable to violence or harassment on the basis of religion, race or other factors.

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Reach Fleming Smith at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter at @MFlemingSmith.

Fleming Smith covers crime and public safety for the Charleston area. A native Georgian, she previously covered breaking news and features for The Wall Street Journal and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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