A Muslim man was assaulted and beaten after leaving his mosque in Queens, New York last Wednesday in an incident advocates are urging police to investigate as a possible hate crime.
Mohammed Rasheed Khan, 59, left prayers at the Center for Islamic Studies in Jamaica, Queens, around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night. According to CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher, he got on his bike to make the short trip home, and before he’d even traveled half a block, he was assaulted by three men who repeatedly punched him in the head and face. He’s now suffering from at least five broken bones in his face, including his nose and eye socket, along with a concussion and fractured ribs. He’s due to have surgery today.
The suspects, whom police are still looking for, didn’t steal Khan’s wallet, watch, or bicycle, and were reportedly seen laughing as they left the scene of the attack.
CAIR-NY and the victim’s family have requested that the NYPD conduct a full and thorough investigation, including an investigation into if there may have been a biased motive. According to local reporting, hate crime investigators have been notified.
“Usually something like this, if there was a robbery you may say that that was the motive — but he was coming out of the Islamic center, he was dressed in traditional attire so he was identifiably a Muslim, and nothing was stolen,” Nasher told ThinkProgress. “We think it’s worth investigating to see if there was a biased motive.”
Although this incident is still under investigation — which is complicated, Nasher said, in part because Khan’s injuries are so grievous he’s physically unable to speak to detectives — there’s been a marked rise in Islamophobic incidents in the United States in the past year.
“Generally speaking, without a doubt there’s a rise in biased incidents and hate crimes all across the United States and New York,” Nasher said. “That’s just the facts.”
After the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Muslims in the United States experienced a wave of backlash despite the fact that nearly every major Islamic group condemned the horrific attacks. Starting in November, ThinkProgress documented the rise in specific anti-Muslim incidents, including violent attacks, threats, assaults, protests, profiling, and vandalism. The list, which is likely incomplete, includes over 70 incidents as of April, all of which are included in this interactive map.
Anti-Islam Incidents Since Paris
“Every time there’s an international incident of real or alleged terrorism we see a rise in these types of incidents,” Nasher told ThinkProgress, adding that in recent months, the rise is probably more than solely a reaction to international terrorism. “The political rhetoric of the day seems to incite a lot of incidents and hatred. It’s not just hate crimes, it’s all kinds of biased incidents including bullying in schools, work discrimination, and opposition to mosques being built.”
The 2016 presidential campaign has been rife with blatant Islamophobia, stoking a dangerous environment where hatred can take root and lead to violence. Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States and for all Muslims to be registered in a database. Jeb Bush called for only Christian refugees to be admitted into the United States. Ben Carson, now one of Trump’s advisers, said that Muslims should be disqualified from the presidency and that Islam was incompatible with the U.S. constitution — and these are just a few examples of the overall tenor of the race.
This rhetoric has a tangible effect. Hateful and violent incidents follow Trump across the country, and according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Trump’s rhetoric has led to an increase in bullying, harassment, and intimidation based on prejudice in schoolchildren around the country.