You'd think international cities like New York would be more accepting than others for the simplest reason that they're still called the cliché "melting pot of cultures." But no, hate and Islamophobia know no location, no time and no education or status.
A Muslim Egyptian couple was harassed by a woman inside and outside of a T.J. Maxx department store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn on Saturday while they were shopping for clothes for their kids. Mido Mourad, an Egyptian journalist based in New York, was attacked along with his veiled ex-wife by a "crazy Trump supporter." According to Mourad, the woman yelled at them to "go back to your country" after noticing his partner was wearing a hijab. The incident began at the counter as the couple and the Islamophobe were about to check out.
"At this point, the white lady in the video started cursing at my wife and I. My wife wears a hijab. This lady became more and more aggressive and we started to worry that she was going to harm us," Mourad said in a statement released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York (CAIR-NY) office, which is now assisting the family.
"As we started to walk away, she yelled at us to 'GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY!' We were shocked and shaken," he added.
After being insulted, cursed, and yelled at in front of both customers and employees, the couple expected help from the staff and store manager but received none.
Mourad then called the police after a witness advised him to do so, to report the incident as a hate crime. While waiting outside of the store for the police to arrive, Mourad turned on his phone camera to record evidence. The lady - who had now finished her check out process - once again came at them as she was exiting the store. Seeing the camera held up to her, she attempted to hit the phone out of the man's hand and yelled: "Get out my face or I'll f**k you up."
When the authorities arrived, the woman was long gone. They recorded the incident as a harassment case instead of a hate crime, even though eyewitnesses stated it was more.
CAIR-NY's Litigation Director, Ahmed Mohamed, remarked that it was "unacceptable" for a store to "value the business of a bigot over protecting their Muslim customers from repugnant harassment." Mohamed also urged the New York Police Department (NYPD) to take such cases seriously and "initiate a hate crime probe."
In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson of the clothing store said "At T.J. Maxx, we are committed to fostering an environment in our stores in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and do not condone any disruptive or otherwise aggressive behavior. We are sorry to learn that this situation occurred between two customers and are looking into this matter further."
The incident has captured the attention of not only the CAIR-NY but other prominent figures in New York. Councilman Justin Brennan, U.S. Representative Max Rose, State Senate member Andrew Gounardes, and Assembly member Mathylde Frontus wrote a letter to the NYPD, urging them to treat the occurrence as a hate crime.
In the letter, the politicians confirmed the diversity of Bay Ridge as an area with different faiths, races, and cultures. "When an incident like this goes unpunished, it threatens the very fabric of this community and makes our constituents feel less safe in their own neighborhood," the letter read.
Islamophobia has been rampant in the U.S. for years now
CAIR has reported an unparalleled rise in bigotry targeting Muslim-Americans, immigrants, and other minority groups since Donald Trump was elected president of the U.S.
"Go back to your country" incidents are growing in numbers, according to CAIR. In August, a Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was also harassed, insulted, and assaulted by a woman sitting behind her on a bus in Brooklyn. The latter began making remarks about the "rag" on the Muslim woman's head, telling her to go back to her country. She then proceeded to spit and throw a cup of soda at the teenager.
At the time, the NYPD also declared this a simple harassment case. The CAIR-NY had called on the NYPD to investigate the event as a hate crime, which led to officials attempting to locate the unknown female.
Another case included three Muslim families - three mothers and their eight children - who were denied entry onto a New York Ferry. Two of the three mothers had pronounced accents - due to their Pakistani descent - and two were wearing hijabs. All of them were, however, Muslim-American.
The families had no problem boarding a ferry from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Wall Street on the day of the incident, which is why they were shocked and humiliated when their path onto the second ferry was blocked by staff. The latter treated the families in a rude and unprofessional manner. After a two-hour wait, and a completely ruined day, they were allowed onto a ferry heading back to Bay Ridge.