October  2001 
Hate Crimes

Backlash against Arab–Americans, Muslims

Dozens of anti-Muslim attacks were reported throughout the United States in an ugly backlash to the terror attacks in New York and Washington in the weeks that followed the bombings

Police turned back 300 marchers - some waving American flags and shouting "USA! USA!" as they tried to march on a mosque in this southwest Chicago suburb soon after the WTC attacks. Three demonstrators were arrested, said Bridgeview Police Chief Charles Chigas. There were no injuries and demonstrators were kept blocks from the closed Muslim worship place. "I’m proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have," said 19-year-old Colin Zaremba who marched with the group from Oak Lawn.

In Chicago, a Molotov cocktail was tossed on September 13 at an Arab–American community centre and a firebomb was hurled at a mosque in Montreal. No one was injured in the attacks.

In Huntington, New York, a 75-year-old man who was drunk tried to run over a Pakistani woman in the parking lot of a shopping mall, police said. The man, Adam Lang, then followed the woman into a store and threatened to kill her for "destroying my country."

Tamara Alfson, an American working at the Kuwait Embassy in Washington, D.C., spent Wednesday counseling frightened Kuwaiti students attending schools across the United States.

"Some of them have already been harassed. People have been quite awful to them," said Alfson, an academic adviser to roughly 150 students.

In a show of patriotism, 45 people from Tampa, Florida’s Islamic community registered with blood services to donate blood on September 13 and 30 members of the Muslim Students Association at the University of South Florida also signed up.

"You feel the pain twice: Once because of what has happened and once because of the looks you get," said Sami Al-Arian, an engineering teacher at the University of South Florida.

Abu Nahidian, director of the Manassas Mosque in Virginia, said his congregation has been the target of insults and hate messages left on the office answering machine. "We have some recordings in our tapes that say, ‘We hate you so-and-so Muslims and we hope you die,"’ Nahidian said.

A mosque in Lynnwood, Washington, was vandalized and no one showed up for afternoon prayers at the Islamic Center of Spokane. "We must not hurt or terrorize Americans of Arab descent or Islamic faith," Governor Gary Locke said during a memorial service at the Puyallup Fair. Several other incidents were reported in Canada, where five school children with Arabic–sounding names were assaulted in Oakville, Ontario.

Dallas Morning News, September 13, 2001

Killing of a Pakistani grocer - a hate crime?

Dallas police and the FBI are investigating whether the shooting to death of a Pakistani grocer in Pleasant Grove was out of anger at Muslims for September 11 terrorist attacks. Police have been unable to determine a motive for the slaying of 46–year–old Waqar Hasan at Mom’s Grocery. There is no evidence of robbery or a struggle, said homicide Sgt. Larry Lewis. Nothing was out of place. There are no surveillance cameras in the store, he said.

Sgt. Lewis said police called the FBI because of the possibility that the slaying was a hate crime. "We have, just in case of recent events, notified the FBI," he said. "I have nothing to prove it was a hate crime, but nothing to disprove it."

Family members said that because nothing was taken from the store, they fear the shooting was a response to the attacks in New York and Washington. "I really think it’s someone trying to take revenge," said Mr. Hasan’s cousin, Khalid Ishaq of Richardson. "Or maybe he did come in to rob and saw ... [that Mr. Hasan] looked like one of those people he saw on TV all the time."

Typically, results of investigations into hate crimes are forwarded to the Justice Department, which determines whether further investigation is needed. Mr. Hasan’s brother-in-law, Nadeem Akhtar, said he was asked about the WTC bombings during interviews with homicide detectives and FBI agents at the Dallas police station. "They asked what I thought about Osama bin Laden," said Mr. Akhtar, referring to the government’s prime suspect in the attacks. Mr. Akhtar and another brother–in–law, Zahid Ghani of New Jersey, who works for a Pakistani news service, said Mr. Hasan was not actively political or religious. "He was only confined to his business and his children," Mr. Ghani said.

Mr. Hasan was found shortly after 10 p.m. in the deli area of the store, police and family members said. The cashier area had bulletproof glass. Mr. Hasan’s family believes the shooter coaxed Mr. Hasan out from behind the glass by asking for a sandwich. "It appears he was waiting on a customer," Sgt. Lewis said. Family and friends said the shooting left them fearful. Mr. Ishaq said his wife was afraid to take their three children out of the house. "They keep saying Muslims, Muslims, Muslims. The whole religion is under condemnation," said Mr. Ishaq, who wore a tan shirt with USA embroidered in blue letters. Mr. Hasan had moved to the United States from Pakistan in 1990 because it was "unsafe over there," Mr. Ishaq said. "He thought this country was going to be safe."

In the third week of September, mosques in Carrollton, Denton and Irving were attacked in what authorities believe could have been a reaction to the terrorist attacks. Shots were fired into the Carrollton and Irving mosques and a firebomb was thrown into the mosque in Denton.

Phoenix police are investigating whether the September 15 shooting to death of a gas station owner was a hate crime, according to the Arizona Republic. That man may have been mistaken as Middle Eastern, his family said, because of his beard and turban. He was a Sikh from Punjab, India.

The Dallas Morning News, September 19, 2001


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