Reunion Tower attack on a Muslim woman reflects the rise in hate crimes
While most Americans were celebrating the new year, Jenan Ayesh, a Muslim visiting Dallas with her family from Oklahoma, is happy to be alive after a vicious verbal and physical attack. She may have been targeted because of she is a Muslim.
Ayesh and her family visited Dallas to ring in the new year. They went to the observation deck of Reunion Tower to get a breathtaking view of the city. Unfortunately, what they saw was what many Muslim-Americans often see — hate.
While exiting the observation deck, Ayesh and her mother, Renee, were accosted about wearing hijabs and were told to go back to their country. After Ayesh informed the attacker that the U.S. is her home, Ayesh said the female assailant snatched her hijab and struck her twice in the head. Ayesh, who said her vision became blurred, was taken to the emergency room and treated for a concussion.
The Texas Hate Crimes Act defines hate crimes as those motivated by prejudice, hatred or advocacy of violence. Federal law defines hate crimes as those that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender and gender identity.
Hate crimes are on the rise throughout the United States, including here in Dallas. Hate crimes reported to police in America’s 10 largest cities rose 12.5 percent in 2017. The increase was the fourth consecutive annual rise and the highest total in over a decade, according to an analysis by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. In North Texas, reports of hate crimes to law enforcement agencies jumped 27 percent in 2017 compared to the year before. Also in 2017, Dallas was second in Texas in the number of reported hate crimes behind Austin
Last year, a report by the Council on American Islamic Relations showed a 17 percent increase in bias-motivated incidents against American Muslims from 2016 to 2017, and a 15 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in that same time period.
In 2018, Anthony Paz Torres was convicted of murder after shooting four people in a tire shop owned by a Muslim man. On Dec. 17, 2015, Torres visited Omar’s Wheels and Tires in Pleasant Grove and asked if the workers were Muslim. He then started cursing at them. Torres returned on Christmas Eve 2015 and started shooting into the tire shop, wounding three people and killing Enrique Garcia-Mendoza, 25, while the victim waited for his friend’s tire to be fixed. Also in 2018, the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center in south Arlington received a threat to blow up the mosque as police officers were giving a law enforcement presentation there.
Though these incidents and statistics of hate crimes are alarming, a Department of Justice report shows that many hate crimes and incidents are go unrfeportedto both law enforcement and community institutions. Nonetheless, the uptick in documented hate crimes is a symptom of a wider problem of anti-Muslim animus fueled by pundits and politicians to create misinformation campaigns that harms all American people.
This new year, we must commit to come together as a community and recognize toxic messages of hate targeting minority groups and address them directly. Furthermore, hate crimes must be vigorously prosecuted to ensure the safety of all community members.