Costa Mesa police to treat burned Koran as hate crime

Costa Mesa police detectives said they are treating a
burned Koran, found last week outside an Islamic education center in Costa
Mesa, as a hate crime, it was reported today.

A member of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County found a copy
of Islam's holy text torched and lying open in the center's parking lot on New
Year's Day, the Daily Pilot reported.

The torched Koran was one of two incidents recently targeting Muslims. A
Muslim exhibit at an interfaith display in Mission Viejo last month was also
vandalized, while all other religions' displays at that location were

The Daily Pilot reported that Police Chief Chris Shawkey and Orange
County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens met with the center's leader, Iman Sayed
Moustafa Al-Qazwini, and others Thursday.

According to a statement on the education center's Web site, Qazwini and
members of the center were encouraged with how authorities were handling the
investigation and finding ways to resolve future hate crimes against Muslims.

And while police are handling the burnt Koran as criminal matter, Costa
Mesa police Sgt. Frank Rudisill told the Daily Pilot that Orange County
prosecutors are considering it a ``hate incident.''

A hate incident is defined by the Orange County Human Relations
Commission as an action or behavior fueled by hate, but protected by the First
Amendment right to free expression. These types of incidents do not step on the
individual rights of others, according to the commission's 2007 hate crime

Costa Mesa reported two hate crimes in 2008, according to the latest FBI