Portland police are looking for the person suspected of using a baseball bat to smash six storefront windows at Ahram Halal Market on Forest Avenue on Christmas Eve.

While police say a witness saw the vandalism take place, they have not identified a suspect or a motive. A national advocacy group on Tuesday called on police to investigate whether anti-Muslim bias motivated the vandalism at the market – halal means food that is prepared under Islamic guidelines – given reports of other incidents around the country in recent weeks.

The owner of the business, Ali Daham, 39, said he has received threatening messages since October, when news reports cited court records showing his business was the target of an extensive investigation into an alleged cash-back scheme to convert food stamp benefits into cash, and that he pocketed some of the money.

Although no criminal charges have been filed in connection with that investigation, and Daham, through his attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, has denied doing anything wrong, the media attention prompted threats on Facebook, Daham said.

“People on Facebook said they (are) going to do something,” Daham said. “I’m scared.”

The vandalism prompted condemnation from advocates for Muslim-Americans.


Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington D.C.-based civil rights and advocacy group, said he learned of the vandalism through a news report. From the information available, he suspected a bias-motivated attack because nothing was taken from the store.

“When someone doesn’t write ‘death to Islam’ in graffiti on the wall, you have to go with these other indications, which in this case, I think are there,” Hooper said.

His group urged police to consider bias as a possible motive, given the recent spike in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide, Hooper said in a statement. Hooper’s group has tracked an uptick in anti-Muslim incidents in states such as New York, Oklahoma and California since the November election.

Portland police said Tuesday that a witness reported seeing a man with what appeared to be a baseball bat run up to the market and break six large windows across the front of the store around 11 p.m. Saturday. The suspect was gone when police arrived. No windows were broken in neighboring businesses, including an adjoining storefront with several large plate glass windows that wrap around the corner of Forest avenue and Revere Street.

Police have not identified a potential motive or suspect, and have not speculated on whether it was a hate crime.

“There was nothing to say it was targeted for that reason,” Lt. Robert Martin said. “It’s odd – the number of windows that were broken, but we’ve had incidents before where someone goes on a rampage for some (unknown) reason.”


Police said the hole in one window was large enough for a person to climb through, but investigators and the owner found no evidence that anything was missing from the store, Martin said.

He said detectives are reviewing surveillance video to try to identify the suspect. They also planned to speak to people in nearby businesses to see if any had security cameras that recorded the incident.

The suspect was described by the witness as a white man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and light-colored pants. Investigators will release a picture of the suspect if surveillance footage yields an image that would aid in identifying the subject, Martin said.

On Tuesday morning, the market was open and the windows were covered with sheets of plywood.

Someone had posted a sign on the plywood covering the shattered glass, condemning the use of violence.

“There is no excuse for such infantile vandalism,” the message read. “Grow up. Learn to use words.”


It was signed “by a long-time Mainer” and neighbor, but did not give a name.

Daham said it would cost about $3,000 to replace the glass. He did not know whether his insurance would cover the cost.

Daham also is attempting the sell the business.

There is a pending application for a business license for the market that would effectively change its ownership, according to the city of Portland.

The new applicant, Oday Aaloosi, is listed under the business name HM Grocery, LLC, said Jessica Hanscombe of the Portland Business License Administration. The application was submitted Oct. 24, a week after state officials called attention to a federal investigation of the Ahram Halal Market for suspected welfare fraud.


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