A Muslim civil rights organization is asking for an investigation into what they said was a hate crime at Sam’s Club last week.

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Derar Ahmad, 30, a Largo resident of Palestinian descent, was shopping at Sam’s Club, 2575 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., on Jan. 24 when he was verbally and physically assaulted by another customer.

Bedier said he has asked the FBI to investigate.

Carol Michalik, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Tampa field office, said she received the request and is assessing the situation to see what action to take, if any.

Ahmad, a gas station manager, said he was speaking on his cell phone to his wife in Arabic when he entered the store. A man whom Ahmad said he had never seen before came running up to him and started yelling anti-Islamic and anti-Arab slurs.

“F— your Allah,” Ahmad said the man shouted. “F— your Mohammed.”

Ahmad said the man jabbed his finger at his head, forcing him to look down and shouted that Ahmad needed to go back to his own country.

Bedier and Ahmad said no Sam’s Club employee intervened. When a security guard approached the two, Ahmad said, the guard told the men to take care of their business outside.

Another customer in the store, Deborah Butler, 45, witnessed the incident and said she first thought the men knew each other and were joking. When she realized the shouting was more serious, she called 911.

Butler and Ahmad said the security guard warned the unidentified man to leave before police arrived.

The man ran to his car and left, they said, and Ahmad was stopped by the security guard from following to write down the man’s vehicle tag number.

“They said words, didn’t even make me feel like a human,” Ahmad said.

Butler, a St. Petersburg resident, said she will no longer shop at Sam’s Club.

Bedier is asking for Sam’s Club to investigate and for disciplinary action if it is determined that any employee violated company policy. He wants company officials to preserve any surveillance tape that might exist and to clarify the company’s nondiscrimination policy and how it relates to protecting customers.

Sam’s Club is looking into the incident, corporate spokeswoman Susan Koehler said.

Bedier is also asking the Clearwater Police Department to investigate the actions of the officers who responded to the scene.

Ahmad said Cpl. Robert Fava refused to file a complaint or document the incident.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.