Hate crime in the Bronx? Local leaders condemn attack on Muslim man

Anxiety over ISIS has contributed to tripling of hate crimes against Muslim Americans in recent months. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is taking steps to protect and connect with the city's Muslims.

The hate crime task force of the New York City police is investigating a Friday assault in the Bronx of a man wearing traditional Muslim garb.

Mujibur Rahman, a Bangladeshi Muslim, was walking with a 9-year-old girl, believed to be his niece, near a school around 5:30 p.m. when he was attacked by a small group of people who shouted "ISIS, ISIS" as they beat him.

He was wearing a salwar kameez, a traditional South Asian outfit featuring a long tunic, and a tupi headdress. 

In light of a recent uptick in anti-Islamic sentiment in the city and across the nation, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken steps to reach out to the city's Islamic community. In early December, the mayor addressed area Muslims-leaders at the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, vowing to protect the city's Muslims from hate crimes and promising to take steps to make the city's Muslim community feel more connected.

Local leaders have condemned the attack, calling it hateful.

“An attack on one of us over race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is an attack on us all,” said Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement to WPIX-TV in New York.

“The people of the Bronx are united in their condemnation of this abhorrent incident,” he said.

The attack is one of an increasing number of hate crimes popping up around the country – from New York to San Diego to Pittsburgh – amid rising anxiety over the threat posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for militant attacks around the world.

Hate crimes against Muslim Americans and mosques across the country tripled after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, The New York Times reported last month. Anti-Islam rhetoric by politicians also hasn’t helped alleviate the anxiety.

“The terrorist attacks, coupled with the ubiquity of these anti-Muslim stereotypes seeping into the mainstream, have emboldened people to act upon this fear and anger,” Brian Levin, a criminologist at California State University in San Bernardino, which conducted the national hate crime analysis, told The Times.

There had been an average of 12.6 suspected hate crimes a month against Muslims in the country, based on F.B.I. data analyzed by Cal State University. But that number has tripled since the Paris attacks.

No one was immediately arrested in the Bronx assault, which is under investigation by the police department's hate crime group. The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has called on the FBI to join the investigation.

This report contains material from Reuters.

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