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Anti muslim rage beats hindu pizza driver { July 23 2003 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
   http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2003/jul/23/opinion/20030723opi6.html

http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2003/jul/23/opinion/20030723opi6.html
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3124846

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


Anti-Muslim rage in US hurts others too

By Greg Frost

“GO back to Iraq!” the young men shouted as they beat and kicked the pizza delivery man in the face, breaking his jaw in three places.

They bound his thin body with rope, stuffed a sock in his mouth to muffle his screams for help and used the back of his neck as an ashtray. They stuffed him into the trunk of a car, where he managed to set himself free–only to be stabbed.

The victim of this Massachusetts attack was neither a Muslim nor an Iraqi but a Hindu from the central Indian city of Indore. He tried to make this clear to his assailants but his entreaties fell on ignorant ears.

Weeks after the attack left him with a pierced lung and liver and sipping his meals through a straw, 24-year-old Saurabh Bhalerao showed little emotion as he recounted the grisly details of what he called “an isolated incident.”

But the attack may be part of a wider trend. A new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations revealed hostility, discrimination and violence have risen in America against Muslims and people simply presumed to be Muslims.

“They didn’t even know the difference between India and Iraq,” Bhalerao, his jaw wired, told Reuters.

‘I could see the hate’

Bhalerao took a job in June at a pizzeria to support his studies at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. On his second day on the job, he was ambushed delivering a $10 pizza to a home in New Bedford.

“I told them to take my money,” he recalled. “One of them may have noticed my accent because they immediately started beating me harder. They kept on screaming: ‘Go Back to Iraq!’”

When the beating intensified, Bhalerao began to wonder if he would make it through alive.

“They had probably planned to rob me at first. But the way they started treating me because they thought I was from the Middle East–I could see the hate in their behavior,” the graduate student said.

Police believe the attack began as a robbery but escalated into something more brutal. Hate crime charges have been filed against four men, along with charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery and other crimes.

Bhalerao said the attack has not changed his feelings about the United States, although he is concerned by what he sees as ignorance in America about the rest of the world.

The attack against Bhalerao marked the second time in seven months that non-Muslim Indians have been victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Massachusetts alone.

Indians have been subjected to similar attacks or acts of discrimination elsewhere in the country. In May, a Sikh in Arizona was shot twice by assailants who reportedly yelled “Go back to where you belong.” Last year in New York, three young men warned another Sikh “not to bomb another building.”

The incidents have the Indian-American community worried.

“A segment of our community is at high risk,” said Ravi Sakhuja, a leader of an Indian-American political group in New England. “Some people are looking at all of us and saying ‘Oh, they’re all Muslims.’”

Dangerous times

Mohamed Nimer, director of research at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said ignorance is “rampant” in America and is among the reasons for a 15-percent increase in anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2002.

In a report issued this month, Nimer said anger about the September 11, 2001, attacks and “discriminatory” government policies like the USA Patriot Act have combined to make America a risky place for Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim.

“It’s more dangerous than ever,” said Nimer, noting that Sikhs, Hindus, and even non-Muslim Hispanics have been the target of anti-Muslim violence. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or not.”

Stoking the flames of hate, he says, is anti-Islamic rhetoric from Christian preachers like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, son of the Reverend Billy Graham.

Falwell prompted deadly Hindu-Muslim clashes in India last year when he described the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist” and Robertson made headlines in December when he called Muslims “worse than Nazis.”

Graham, who gave the sermon at President George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration, angered Muslims after the September 11 attacks when he called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.”

“When you have leaders who talk this way. . . . it’s no wonder you get some people who are willing to go and attack,” Nimer said. “Some people really believe the Islamic mosque next door is the place where bombing attacks are being hatched and they say: ‘Let’s get them before they get us.’”
--Reuters




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