Justice

Florida Officials Fear Potential Hate Crimes Against Muslim Women

December 12th 2015

By:
Alex Mierjeski

Muslims in Tampa, Florida received a message of support from their mayor on Friday, after the director of a regional advocacy organization said two local Muslim women had allegedly been the targets of potential hate crimes. 

"As long as I'm the mayor of this community, we will never ever demonize anybody based on race or creed or color or ethnicity or the god you worship or who you love," said Mayor Bob Buckthorn said, surrounded by interfaith leaders at a news conference, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

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Hassan Shibly, director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said that the group was concerned about two recent cases, involving a potential road rage incident, and a potential attempted shooting. 

According to the Times, one woman said she was followed in traffic and cut off by a driver, who also allegedly threw rocks at her car. Another woman said she was shot at after leaving a mosque. Neither of the women have been identified. 

"She was driving and felt the impact and thought maybe she hit a bump," Shibly said. He said the woman, who also reportedly had a child in the car, later found damage she believed to be from a bullet. 

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The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the case, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation. 

A Florida CAIR official also would not comment on the case specifics, citing the investigation, but said that the reports are part of a broader trend of increasing incidents against Muslims, self-reported to advocacy groups. 

"CAIR Florida, as well as all our sister chapters across the country, are seeing a higher case load in light of comments made by Donald Trump, the California shooting, and the influx of Syrian refugees. We're asking community members to report anything that happens, and asking that political leaders work with their communities," Laila Abdelaziz, Legislative and Government Affairs Director for CAIR's Florida chapter, told ATTN:. 

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Both CAIR and the Hillsborough sheriff's office said it was too early to confirm if the reported crimes were being treated as acts of hate. 

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Posted by ATTN: on Sunday, December 6, 2015

Buckthorn said the reported attacks would be investigated. "We're not going to tolerate it," he said, "and if we find it to be true we will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law." 

Anti-Muslim sentiment, at least in the polls, has been on full public display in recent weeks. According to one poll, only 50 percent of likely voters opposed a proposed plan by Donald Trump to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. Among likely Republican voters, some 65 percent approved the plan, and 75 percent of likely Democratic voters opposed the plan. This week, the New York Times reported that Americans' fear of a terrorist attack is at a level not seen since the weeks following September 11, 2001.