Muslim cab driver shot in back: FBI launches hate crime investigation

A Muslim cab driver in Pittsburgh was shot on Thanksgiving day after dropping off a customer.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Graffiti in the shape of the Eiffel Tower inside a circle is painted on the side of the Islamic Center in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. A Muslim civil rights group wants the FBI and local police to investigate the vandalism as possible hate crime, that may be related to the Paris terror attacks.

The FBI is reviewing the shooting of a Pittsburgh cab driver after a Muslim civil rights group asked the Justice Department to determine if it was a hate crime.

Authorities said the 38-year-old Muslim taxi driver was shot in the back on Thanksgiving in the city's Hazelwood section. The Moroccan immigrant, who hasn't been identified, is hospitalized in stable condition.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the shooter asked the driver about his background and if he was from Pakistan. The group says the man asked about the Islamic State group and satirized the Prophet Muhammad.

A spokesman with the FBI's Pittsburgh branch says investigators are reviewing the shooting the same way they review crimes that appear to be racially motivated. Police are still searching for the shooter.

“He started the conversation and began to ask questions like, ‘You seem to be like a Pakistani guy. Are you from Pakistan?’ ” the driver said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from his bed at UPMC Mercy, where he is being treated for a bullet wound in the upper back. “And I said, ‘No, I’m from Morocco. But I’m an American guy.’

“Then he continued the conversation. He began to speak about ISIS killing people. I told him ‘Actually, I’m against ISIS. I don’t like them.’ I even told him that they are killing innocent people. I noticed that he changed his tone and he began to satirize Muhammad, my prophet, and began to shift to his personal life. He mentioned that he has two kids and was in prison for some time.

“So it was this kind of stuff until we got to his destination. He asked me to wait for a little bit because he forgot his wallet in the house. I waited for just five minutes, I think, and I noticed that he came out of the house carrying a rifle in his hand. I noticed him coming toward me. I didn’t hesitate. I [made] a fast decision to leave and drove my taxi away because I felt he was going to do something. There is danger. He would shoot me or something. I felt like he had the intention to kill me.”

The driver said that as he sped away he heard a couple of gunshots, one of which blasted out the back window of his cab and struck him.

As The Christian Science Monitor wrote recently, the recent attacks in Paris are part of a larger ISIS strategy to polarize Western nations, and foment hate toward Muslims. 

In "From Hypocrisy to Apostasy: The Extinction of the Grayzone," the February issue of its magazine Dabiq, the group wrote about the progress it has made in polarizing the world.

“As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubra (the “Great Battle”), the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost,” claimed the cover story, praising “the withering of the grayzone,” the grayzone being a place where one can be both a Muslim and a citizen of a Western country. It also warned Muslims in the West that they will soon be forced to make “one of two choices” – become an "apostate" (a Muslim who does not support ISIS) or migrate to ISIS-controlled lands.

According to the article, ISIS said it would achieve this by carrying out savage attacks that would "further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere."

The spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after 9/11 led to a decline in assimilation rates in American Muslim communities, a study published last year in The Economic Journal found. In places where hate crimes increased the most, Muslim immigrants in subsequent years spoke English less fluently, were less likely to marry non-Muslims, and, if female, were less likely to work outside the home, reported the Washington Post.

The results “suggest that terror groups may try to provoke a backlash against their own ethnic or religious group in the targeted country, in order to halt the assimilation of Muslim adherents into Western society," the study's authors concluded. 

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