Las Vegas police are searching for a man who was caught on camera wrapping raw bacon on the door handles of a local mosque over the weekend as they investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.
The bacon was discovered by worshipers early Sunday as they arrived for morning prayer at Masjid-e-Tawheed around three miles west of the Las Vegas strip.
Surveillance cameras mounted on the building were recording as the perpetrator arrived at the mosque shortly after 3 a.m. on Sunday and began wrapping the door handles on either side of the building with bacon. The suspect appears to be a white male with a goatee, long sideburns and glasses, and the city’s KTNV news network reported that Las Vegas police are investigating the act as a possible hate crime since Islam prohibits Muslims from eating or touching pork.
“I hope that in his conscience, in his heart he feels ashamed of what he did,” Rokai Yusufzai, a founding member of the mosque, told KSNV News3LV. Previous articles have described Mr. Yusufzai as an Afghan refugee who arrived in Vegas in 1984 and has since served as an advisor to the U.S. military.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, condemned the incident at his mosque in a statement on Tuesday and demanded authorities launch state and federal hate crime probes.
“This type of attempted desecration must be investigated as an act of intimidation and hate, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s director of national communications.
“Muslims are prohibited from consuming pork products and bigots often use pigs or pork to offend Muslim sensibilities,” CAIR said in a statement.
Statewide, law enforcement agencies in Nevada reported 24 hate crimes in 2011; seven of those crimes were motivated by racial bias and were investigated by Las Vegas police, the FBI said. Around 10,000 Muslims resided in the greater Vegas areas as of 2013.
Hours before Sunday morning’s incident, an Islamic center 500 miles east in Tracy, California was damaged by a firebomb.
“The recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide is unprecedented and should be of concern to all Americans,” Basim Elkarra, executive director for CAIR’s Sacramento Valley chapter, told the San Francisco Chronicle after the attack.
In the U.S. and abroad, terror attacks perpetrated by Islamic extremists in recent months in Paris and California have been blamed for a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment. Nearly six-in-10 Republican voters told pollsters earlier this month that they supported a plan proposed by GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump that would put a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States.
“Why did I come to this country? Why did I build this life? I could’ve had all this animosity back home. I could have had all this hatred back home,” Mr. Yusufzai told KSNV News3LV earlier this month.