Man shoves Muslim NYC transit worker down stairs, shouting 'You're a terrorist'
By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT | The Washington Post | Published: December 6, 2016
The New York City Transit employee was on her way to work Monday, wearing her uniform and hijab, when a man pushed her on the stairs, injuring her ankle and knee, police said.
The man had followed her off the 7 train into Grand Central Terminal in New York City at about 6:20 a.m. and yelled the words, "You're a terrorist, go back to your own country!"
"You shouldn't work here," he added, according to the transit worker, identified by WABC as Soha Salama.
The assault was the latest in a series of hate crimes targeting Muslims in New York City, including an altercation on Saturday evening in which a man threatened to slit an off-duty officer's throat, allegedly calling her "ISIS." She was also wearing a hijab.
It also happened on the same day that police officials announced a 35-percent spike in hate crimes from last year, which Mayor Bill de Blasio called "dangerous" and "obviously connected to the election."
"We could lose lives because of this," de Blasio said in a news conference Monday. "The temperature has to be brought down."
Since Election Day, hate crimes have increased by 115 percent, with 43 hate crimes reported, compared to 20 during the same period last year, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said in a news conference Monday. Twenty-four of those incidents were found to be anti-Semitic, and four were anti-Muslim.
"We're seeing, across the board, an increase right now," Boyce said. Arrests in these cases have also increased by 45 percent, Boyce added, so authorities are making arrests "nearly immediately" in some cases.
The mayor attributed the spike in part to to rhetoric used by president-elect Donald Trump during his campaign.
"We now need to work with him," de Blasio said. "He has a chance to make it better by amending his comments and being a force of reconciliation. I think he has to do more of that."
Salama, the transit employee, is a 45-year-old mother of four who works as a Metropolitan Transportation Authority station agent, WABC reported. In 20 years of living in New York City, "it is my first time I face something like that," she told the station.
"I wasn't able to say anything," she told CBS New York. "I was afraid he was going to throw me down the tracks or do more bad to me than he already did. He was like pushing me down."
A passer-by stopped to help Salama, who was transported to a hospital for treatment, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The governor said in the statement he wished the woman a "speedy recovery" and said the state's Hate Crimes Task Force will "continue to crack down on this type of criminal behavior."
"We do not allow intolerance or fear to divide us because we know diversity is our strength and we are at our best when we stand united," Cuomo said in the statement.
Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement that New York's subways and buses are emblematic of the city's diversity, and must not be permitted to be become "a venue for hatred and violence."
"President-elect Trump has a duty to forcefully denounce this wave of violence against the Muslim community," Nasher said. "Mr. Trump's rhetoric normalized hate, racism and xenophobia, and these attacks are the unavoidable byproduct."
A separate incident involving anti-Muslim bias on a subway train took place Thursday night, police said, when three men reportedly taunted a Muslim woman wearing hijab on a subway train, calling her a terrorist and yelling "Donald Trump."
Police said the men told the 18-year-old woman "you don't belong here" and called her hijab a "rag," according to the Associated Press. As the train pulled into Grand Central station, one of the men tried unsuccessfully to pull off her hijab.
Adding to a series of suspected anti-Semitic incidents affecting the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the inside of a New York City 1 train was found Saturday to have been vandalized with multiple swastikas. Last week, KKK fliers and business cards were distributed at the Patchogue and Hampton Bay Stations on the Long Island Rail Road, according to Cuomo's statement.
Similar hate crimes targeting Muslims, Jews, immigrants and other minority groups have been reported across the country since the election. CAIR has tracked more than 100 suspected anti-Muslim incidents nationwide, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented almost 1000 incidents targeting different minority groups, according to a statement from CAIR.
Salama was nursing a twisted knee and a swollen ankle late Monday, CBS New York reported.
In light of the altercation, she told WABC that she plans to be a bit more cautious, but will continue to wear her headscarf.
"I would never think about not wearing my hijab," Salama said. "I will still wear it. It's never going to affect me."