Hate wave targets Muslims
The new series of attacks is linked to revenge for 9/11
By Norma Harrison
Deseret News staff writer
A deadly shooting rampage leaves three fatally wounded in a Houston
Vietnamese restaurant. The sign for a new mosque and Muslim cultural
center in Boca Raton, Fla., gets torched beyond recognition. And in Heber,
a fire is intentionally set in a motel run by a Pakistani-American family,
causing $100,000 in damage.
All three happened within the past two weeks. And each is being
described by investigators as likely hate crimes against members of the
Islamic community in revenge for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly a
year ago on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Such incidents began to occur immediately in the wake of the suicide
hijackings and crashes in New York City, Washington, D.C., and
Pennsylvania that killed 3,000 Americans and others from 80 countries
around the globe. Around the nation, Muslims and people of South Asian and
Middle Eastern descent became victims of racially motivated crimes,
targets of verbal abuse, harassment and other forms of ostracism.
With the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in this nation's
history approaching, another wave of hate crimes seems to be building here
"Violent acts are unacceptable, and when these acts are directed
toward groups based on their religion, race, ethnic origin or other
special population groups, they are especially heinous," said Sandra
Kikuchi, chairwoman of Utah's 15-member Asian-American Advisory Council.
"We must all work together to put an end to these needless acts of
The most recent Utah incident targeted Mazhar Tabesh, his wife and
his in-laws and was prefaced by a year of threatening phone calls to the
Alpine Lodge, where the family lives. The caller warned the Pakistani
natives to leave because, he said, they didn't belong there.
On July 21, that message got stronger. Someone started a fire in the
closet of Room 112, then spread the blaze by pouring flammable liquid in
the hallway upstairs.
The fire destroyed nine of the 22 rooms in the motel. Police are
Just two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, James Michael Herrick, 32,
set fire to Curry in a Hurry, a Salt Lake Pakistani restaurant, and later
admitted it was in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. He was sentenced in
April to spend just over four years in prison on state and federal charges
of first-degree felony aggravated arson and a civil-rights violation of
interfering with a federally protected activity for setting the fire at
the business at 2020 S. State. The building sustained minimal damage to an
The other out-of-state incidents that occurred last month involved
victims of Asian descent.
"These people (the victims) are not terrorists; we are law-abiding
citizens and most of us tax-paying," said Nadeem Ahmed, spokesman for the
Utah Asian Advisory Council and chairman of the board of trustees for the
Islamic Society of Salt Lake City. "We want to be mainstream. You talk to
any of us, and we all think this is the most wonderful country in the
But after Sept. 11, the 20,000 Muslims in Utah "suddenly became
frightened because we began seeing such prejudices could happen anywhere,"
he continued. "It was always there to some extent, but suddenly it took a
big hit on Muslims because in Sept. 11, they (the terrorists) were
Muslims. It has nothing to do with religion, in my mind, because no
religion I know of suggests you go out with a bomb or purposefully crash a
After all, he added solemnly, "Suicide is a sin in Islam."
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