A Muslim Man Was Beaten Outside a Mosque in NYC — Here's Why It Matters

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Mohamed Rasheed Khan, a 59-year-old Muslim man, was viciously attacked outside a mosque in Queens, New York, according to WNBC.

Khan — who is of Guyanese descent — was riding his bicycle late Wednesday night when three unidentified men assaulted him, beating him so brutally that he was left with a concussion, multiple bruises and rib and face fractures.

The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is now asking the New York City Police Department to probe the attack as a possible hate crime. 

"Because of the location of the attack outside a mosque, the Islamic attire of the victim and because nothing was stolen by the alleged attackers, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this troubling incident," said CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher in an emailed press release Sunday. 

The beating occurred shortly after Khan had finished prayers at the New York borough's Center For Islamic Studies on the night before the beginning of Ramadan.

The incident has rattled the local Muslim community, though some say it comes as no surprise:

"It is incredibly disheartening to hear, but it's not particularly surprising given the Islamophobic vitriol amplified by politicians, including Trump," Tariq Islam, a 26-year-old American Muslim and resident of Queens, said of the attack in a phone interview. "It is a scary time to be South Asian and Muslim and to be visible about both identities. It makes me angry but it also makes me feel helpless."

Since March 2015, researchers at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding have documented 180 reported anti-Muslim incidents across the US, including "12 murders; 34 physical assaults; 49 verbal assaults or threats against persons and institutions; 56 acts of vandalisms or destruction of property; nine arsons; and eight shootings or bombings," among others.

Nasher, the Georgetown researchers and other observers suggest that these incidents are linked to the rise in Islamophobic rhetoric trumpeted by the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, both of who ran for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination.

"[Trump, Cruz and the media] have empowered the bigots, racists, and loose cannons to make their individual moves on Muslims," Islam added. "If you hear Muslim and enemy over and over and over again on television and print what do you think is going to happen eventually?"

While a causal link is hard to prove in this case, the timing is certainly uncanny: After Trump called for a nationwide shutdown of mosques in the U.S. in November, the Georgetown report claims anti-Muslim attacks nearly tripled, with nearly half of those attacks aimed at houses of worship. When Trump later called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S. in December, researchers identified 53 anti-Muslim incidents over the duration of that month.

The mosque in Jamaica Ave. where Mohamed Khan left before being brutally attacked.Source: Center for Islamic Studies
The mosque in Jamaica Ave. where Mohamed Khan left before being brutally attacked.  Center for Islamic Studies

The result, some Muslims say, is a feeling of near-constant terror in the communities they call home.

"These attackers are not just people who commit hate crimes — they intend to terrorize Muslims in Queens, the most diverse borough of New York," Maryam Al-Zoubi, a 28-year-old law school graduate, Muslim and Queens resident, said in an email. "Every time a Muslim is attacked in my neighborhood it puts me on edge."

Yet many, like Al-Zoubi, remain unbowed. Contrary to the rhetoric spewed by hateful politicians and their supporters, American Muslims are just as American as anyone else. This is their home, too.

"I will not let these domestic terrorists win by being terrified about being attacked," Al-Zoubi said. "I am an American and I have an equal right to be here as others. Nobody has the right to make me feel unwelcome in my own country."

With Ramadan now in full swing, many Muslims in the U.S. have grave concerns for their communities' safety and security. At a time when love, compassion and charitable giving is meant to be of the utmost importance for Muslims, many are instead forced to live under the constant threat of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence.

No one should have to endure this — no matter their cultural background or religion.