As the Republican Party continues to relentlessly demonize Muslim-Americans, their racist supporters are responding with atrocious violence. A Muslim cab driver was shot in Pittsburgh by a passenger spewing anti-Islamic abuse, and Muslim leaders are calling on the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate the attack as a hate crime.
The driver, a 38-year-old man from Morocco who prefers to remain anonymous, was driving a passenger home late Thanksgiving night, when the passenger began to harass and question him. First, he wanted to know if the driver was from Pakistan. The driver responded that he was from Morocco, but was “an American guy.”
“Then he continued the conversation,” the driver said. “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.”
At the end of the ride, the driver was asked to wait while the man went inside to “get his wallet.” But when he came out of the house carrying a rifle, the driver knew that there was going to be trouble.
“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.”
As he drove away, the man shot at his vehicle multiple times, hitting the driver in the back. The victim managed to drive a few more blocks before finding help. He is currently in the hospital in stable condition.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is leading the call for the Justice Department to treat this as a hate crime, “similar to a growing number of attacks targeting the nation’s Muslim community following the recent terror attacks in Paris.” “Federal officials need to send a clear message that attacks on American Muslims, or on any minority group, will not be tolerated and that the perpetrators will face the full force of the law.”
It’s disturbing to see how the right wing’s racist, Islamophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric is translating more and more frequently into violence. From Donald Trump’s vision of a Muslim registry, to Ben Carson likening refugees to dogs, such statements provide the background for many of the recent shootings and attacks. Trump still refuses to withdraw his incendiary and dishonest claim that Muslim-Americans in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks.
Despite the abuse and intolerance that he and many other Muslims face as a result of right-wing fear-mongering, the Moroccan driver does not hold resentment against America or the city of Pittsburgh, saying: “My dream is to be an American. This is my country.” He added: “I am proud to say I am American, but I didn’t have the chance to say that to him.”
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.