When victim asked 'why are you punching me?' alleged attacker replied, 'You're a [expletive] Muslim.'
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/1/13) â€“ The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said it is seeking hate crime charges for an alleged assault on a Muslim U.S. Army reservist and Iraq veteran reportedly attacked by a passenger who compared him to those who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings and threatened to kill him.
CAIR said the alleged attacker has been charged with misdemeanor assault, but the Washington-based civil rights group is asking prosecutors to instead bring felony charges based on Virginia's hate crime law.
In a cell-phone video taken by the driver, 39-year-old Mohamed A. Salim of Great Falls, Va., the alleged attacker is heard asking the victim if he is Muslim and claiming that most Muslims are terrorists.
According to a Washington Post report on the incident:
“He says the Koran directs Muslims to kill nonbelievers and then repeatedly and loudly demands that Salim denounce the Sept. 11, 2001, attackers. When Salim asks if the passenger is threatening him, the passenger uses an obscene phrase to respond in the affirmative.
“If you're a Muslim, you're a jihadist,” the passenger says. “You are just as bad as the rest of them.”
The video ends with a blur of motion and audio of Salim asking, “Why are you punching me? Sir, why are you punching me?”
The passenger replies: “You're a Muslim.”
Medical records show that Salim was treated for a fractured jaw and a head injury.
“With the sharp spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric we have witnessed since the tragedy in Boston, it was inevitable that a tiny minority of bigoted individuals would turn hate speech into acts of violence,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, who is representing Salim. “We urge prosecutors to look at the clear evidence of hatred based on religion, race and national origin, and then bring appropriate felony charges in the case.”
As an example of violence-promoting hate rhetoric, Abbas cited a picture posted by a Tennessee county commissioner of a man aiming a gun. The text on the photo reads: “How to wink at a Muslim.”
SEE: Muslim Groups Outraged by Tennessee Official's Post (Tennessean)
“This incident appears to meet the exact scenario Attorney General Holder spoke about recently, and we hope the Justice Department will push for maximum charges,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “The individual allegedly targeted in this attack served his nation and deserves better than slurs and abuse.”
Awad said several other bias-motivated incidents targeting Muslims may have been linked to the Boston bombings.
InÂ Malden, Mass., a mother of Middle Eastern heritage wearing an Islamic headscarf, or hijab, was assaulted by a white male shouting anti-Muslim slurs. In New York, a Bangladeshi man was beaten hours after the Boston Marathon bombing by attackers who called him “a f**king Arab.” The victim was punched in the head and body, resulting in a dislocated shoulder.
CAIR's Oklahoma chapter also called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a second incident of vandalism targeting a mosque in that state to determine whether it is backlash from the Boston Marathon bombings.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 202-742-6410, 720-251-0425, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, email@example.com