Muslim family living in Helena wakes up to vulgar vandalism

Words and images spray painted on family's van

Broken windows, flat tires, vulgar words and images spray painted on a van, and motor oil poured over three vehicles. That's the scene one Helena family woke up to in their driveway Friday morning.

"I get surprised when I see that because we live in very nice and safe neighborhood. I don't know why people do this to me?" says Barraq Alquza. He says he and his family have lived in the Old Cahaba neighborhood of Helena for years without any problems.

Now he believes this is a hate crime, "100% yes," says Alquza. He thinks this is a hate crime because of what's spray painted on his van. It's racially related expletives and images of male genitalia.

A new report by the Department of Justice says 54% of hate crimes go unreported. And 23% of hate crime victims do not report the crime because they believe police would not want to be bothered, would be ineffective, or would cause trouble for the victim.

"It's fear, fear of repercussions, fear of backlash, fear of being in the public," says Khaula Hadeed with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, "I would argue the only way to deal with it is to talk about it. That it is within in our communities and it's happening every other day."

Hadeed says Alquza's family did the right thing by reporting this hate crime to police. She wants more people to feel safe reporting hate crimes. "Each and every person who thinks that it's ok to not speak about it please think of other people because one person speaking out helps a lot of others who aren't

Alquza says other people were on his mind when he called police. "If that's happened to me maybe it's happened to other people...I call the cops because I want to find out why. Maybe because I'm a Muslim? Or I don't know I just want to find out what the reason is."

Helena's Chief of Police, Pete Folmar, told us just before 5 p.m. Friday that the Police Department is not currently calling this a hate crime. The Chief says he won't rule it out completely but right now it is being investigated as criminal mischief.

At 5:15 p.m. the Mayor Mark Hall of Helena sent us this statement, "I have instructed the Chief of Police to use every resource available to find the perpetrator(s) involved in this incident so that arrests can be made. Any crime committed involving hatred or intimidation because of a persons race or religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the City of Helena."

Within the last few weeks CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) created an app to help people report hate crimes. You do not need to be Muslim to use the app. Anyone who thinks they've been a victim of a crime because of their religion or race is welcome to use the app. A database will be built so organizations can hopefully use that information to learn why these hate crimes are happening. To find the app just search for "CAIR" in the app store or google play.

The Old Cahaba Neighborhood Association tells us they have started a gofundme to raise money for Alquza and his family so they don't have to worry about their insurance deductible to get their cars and van fixed.

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