The FBI has opened a hate crime investigation into an attack on a Muslim woman in which police say a 19-year-old college student shouted racial slurs and tried to remove her headscarf.
FBI Special Agent Wendy Osborne tells The Herald-Times there is no deadline for concluding the investigation into Saturday's incident in Bloomington, Indiana.
Bloomington police say Triceten Bickford of Fort Wayne, Indiana, assaulted the 47-year-old woman outside a Turkish cafe.
Witnesses say Bickford shouted "white power," ''kill the police" and an anti-black racial slur. He's also accused of trying to remove her headscarf and restricting her breathing.
Indiana University expelled Bickford following reports of the attack.
After living in the US for 18 years, the woman said she has “never experienced any kind of discrimination or racism, let alone an all-out attack,” WTHR News reports. But the incident comes at a time of heightened racism against Muslims in the US.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing a growing anti-Muslim sentiment in our society,” Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told The Christian Science Monitor Tuesday.
“I can say I’ve been working at this organization for over three years, and the number of instances, and the general atmosphere in the country, it’s more than I’ve ever seen,” Madihha Ahussain, staff attorney with Muslim Advocates in Oakland, Calif., tells The Christian Science Monitor. “And a lot of people who’ve done this a long time – there’s talk about how it seems even worse than after 9/11.”
Bickford is scheduled to appear in court Friday on felony charges of strangulation, intimidation, battery on a police officer, and misdemeanor charges.
What's a hate crime? Here's how the FBI defines it:
For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties
The FBI reports that there were more than 5,000 hate crimes reported in 2013. Of that total, 135 were anti-Islamic. Among religious hate crimes, the biggest total was anti-Jewish, with 625.