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Vehicles Vandalized: Random Act or Hate Crime?

The El Paso Police Department is investigating if a weekend vandalism spree is a hate crime against local Muslim families.

The families, who all live in a West Side apartment complex, said they woke up Saturday morning to discover the tires of their vehicles had been slashed overnight. The tires on five different vehicles were slashed, four of which belong to Muslim families.

El Paso Police Spokesman, Sergeant Chris Mears, told ABC-7 the police department’s Homeland Security Investigation Unit is looking into the incident. It handles reported hate crimes.

The victims asked their names and the name of their apartment complex not be published, citing fear for their safety. The Muslim families believe they were targeted because of their religion, saying they are easily identifiable as Muslims because the women wear burkas or dress in Islamic attire. They said their cars were spread out across the complex, signaling the vandalism wasn’t random.

“My son came in and yelled from the door ‘mom we are in danger,’ It’s not our childrens fault. It’s not my fault that other people are doing wrong things for the wrong reasons and my children have to live in fear,” said a woman whose car was vandalized, “They know where we live. They know who we are. And now we don’t have the peace of mind to leave our homes, to leave our kids at home.”

Omar Hernandez, the Spokesman for the Islamic Center of El Paso, said a misguided and growing anti-Muslim sentiment has the community on edge.

“People continue to link the religion with the crimes of these so-called Muslims,” said Hernandez, “ISIS is the biggest one right now. Its actions have nothing to do with Islam.”

Hernadez said if a group bombed an abortion clinic in the name of Christ, Americans normally wouldn’t come to the conclusion the group represents Christians as a whole. He believes there is a double standard for Muslims.

The woman said she’s focusing on keeping faith that her family will be okay. “That’s the greatest thing to living in this wonderful, beautiful country – freedom of speech and you get to practice the religion you love. And that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said, “I wouldn’t dare do the same thing that they did to me, even if I knew who it was. I wouldn’t dare do it because that’s not what my religion teaches me. Why should I seek revenge?”

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