(CNSNews.com) – Federal authorities say they are still “assessing” whether to launch a federal hate crime investigation into an incident in which someone apparently threw three pig legs at the site of a proposed mosque in Southern California, during a Ramadan prayer gathering being held there.
“The FBI has been in contact with members of the Muslim community in the area, and agents are communicating with the Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the incident, to make an assessment with regard to the opening of a federal investigation,” Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles field office of the FBI, told CNSNews.com.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com only that the U.S. Justice Department was “looking into” the case.
At about 10 p.m. on Aug. 7, worshippers at the planned mosque site of the Al-Nur Islamic Center near Chino in San Bernardino County, Calif. were disrupted while praying, when two women in a white pick-up truck threw three pig legs into the driveway of the site, according to the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA).
Because Muslims consider pork or pork-based products “impure” and “unclean,” the Muslim group, which called the act “offensive,” requested the Justice Department on Aug. 10 investigate the incident as a “federal hate crime.”
“We urge the DOJ to investigate possible federal charges for the perpetrators of this disturbing incident. Only firm action by local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities will send the message that bias-motivated attacks on Muslims, or Americans of any faith, will not be tolerated,” CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in an Aug. 10 letter sent to the Department of Justice asking for the hate crime investigation.
CAIR-LA told CNSNews.com that the act was caught on surveillance camera but CAIR would not release the video because the investigation is ongoing.
“Clearly, the perpetrators knew that pork products are forbidden and they are offensive to the Muslim community and that’s why this incident was particularly committed to disrupt, to intimidate, to offend the Muslim community during the holiest time of the year,” CAIR-LA Communications Manager Munira Syeda told CNSNews.com.
The L.A. incident is one of several bias-related incidents which have occurred at mosques in recent weeks, according to CAIR-LA., including in Missouri, Rhode Island and California – not to mention the shootings at a Wisconsin Sikh temple.
“We definitely felt an urgency to contact the DOJ and since the cases are spread across the country, we felt it important to bring our local case to the DOJ’s attention so they can be on the lookout for any other potentially violent incidents targeting houses of worship across the country,” Syeda said.
The Muslim faith teaches that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during the Islamic month of Ramadan. In observance of the period, Muslims fast during the day and have special evening prayers in addition to their five regular daily prayers. Ramadan in 2012 in the U.S. began on Friday, July 20 and ended on Saturday, Aug. 18.