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Islamophobic hate crime in New York City

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The seven-million strong American Muslim community was shocked Saturday (December 29, 2012) at the horrendous murder of Sunando Sen, who was pushed by a women to his death on the tracks of a New York subway station because she thought he was Muslim.

"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," Erika Menendez, 31, told police according to the district attorney's office. She was charged with second degree murder as hate crime. India-born Sunando Sen was raised as Hindu.

The murder of Sen at a New York Subway Station of Queens comes only weeks after Pamela Geller placed hate-ads targeting the Arab and Muslim community in subway stations across New York.  One of the ads insinuated that Arab and Muslims are "savages" and another ad has an image of the World Trade Center exploding next to a quote from the Quran.

The Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said that Sen's murder is a clear example of how hate speech can lead to and incite violence against Arabs, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim.  "The ADC and hundreds of diverse coalition partners, have been warning public officials about the impact the ads can have against community members.   The promotion and placement of advertisements targeting and vilifying any community must not be tolerated."

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) urged the nation's leaders to speak out forcefully against the rising level of anti-Muslim hate in American society that is being fueled and exploited by a vocal minority of Islamophobes.

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The CAIR said that a designated hate group headed by blogger Pamela Geller is placing Islamophobic advertisements in transit systems nationwide, including in New York subway stations and CAIR-NY reached out to the transit authority with concerns that the ads might incite violence.

Pamela Geller is recognized as being at the core of a group promoting intolerance of Muslims and Arabs in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors the hate movement in the United States, calls her "the anti-Islam movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead." 

Annie Robbins and Alex Kane of Mondoweiss reports:

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"After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller's organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu'ran verse printed to the right of the towers. Geller's role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City's own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick."

Robbins and Kane borrowed Lizzy Ratner of The Nation to bring home their point: "Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life--in classrooms and offices and housing complexes--as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness."

"This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City's Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life" they concluded.

Shoving of Sunando Sen is the latest anti-Muslim hate crime. Here are three more recent hate incidents.

On November 18, a Queens man was stabbed repeatedly outside a mosque by a would-be killer who shouted anti-Muslim comments. The victim, identified by friends as Bashar Mohammod, 57, was attacked from behind while opening the Masjid Al-Saaliheen mosque for prayer around 4:45 a.m., according to police. The attacker, described as a Hispanic man in his 40s, stabbed Mohammod repeatedly while shouting anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim slurs.

On November 24, two teens beat a 70-year-old Queens man after asking him if he was Hindu or Muslim. Cops described the suspects as dark-haired Hispanic males, both in their late teens or early 20s. 

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On December 12, a man walked into the Ibrahim Khalillullah Islamic Center in Fremont, California, during afternoon prayer and said he had a gun and threatened to kill everyone inside. The people inside asked him to leave and he left peacefully, but he remains on the run. Police said they don't have a lot of information on the man aside from him being in his 30s and possibly driving  a 1990s gray Toyota Camry.


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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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