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Vandalism at Muslim-owned business investigated as hate crime

Updated Monday, July 25, 2016 | 4:27 p.m.

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office is investigating graffiti spray painted on a Muslim businessman’s shop in Pahrump as a hate crime, and a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization is asking state and federal law enforcement to step in.

Deputies responded about 4:30 p.m. Sunday to the business in the 3000 block of North David Street, authorities said. Phrases such as “Foreiger (sic) go home,” “Lost Turban” and “Go Home Indian” were spray painted in black on the white exterior walls of the building.

“These statements insinuated a bias based on the business owner’s religion, and is being investigated as a hate crime,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The business owner, Waqar Ahmed, 60, said he moved to Pahrump in 2002 and has been operating a Volkswagen repair shop there for the better part of 10 years.

Ahmed said he thinks he knows who is responsible for the graffiti and has had run-ins with the man before.

“This isn’t the first time something like this happened,” he said. “The man who did this says these same things to me all of the time.”

He said the sheriff’s office has been “unhelpful” in other instances, but he hopes authorities take action about the vandalism.

“I just wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Ahmed said. “I’m an educated person. I’m a bona fide citizen of the U.S.”

A native of India, Ahmed became a U.S. citizen in 1986 and said he has been offended by his treatment in the community. He said he contacted the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations in May to bring the situation to its attention.

The group is asking state and federal authorities to investigate what they say are repeated threats targeting Ahmed over the past two months, according to a release by council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the apparent bias motive for the alleged threats and hate vandalism,” Hooper said.

The sheriff’s office said the case was under investigation, and no more details would be released until the investigation is complete.

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