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Muslim Police Officer Targeted By Hate Crime; NYPD Officers Request Meeting With President-Elect

The increasing racial tensions and troubling rhetoric of the 2016 election season have culminated in an alarming spike in hate crimes here in the United States. In fact, the NYPD says that such crimes have spiked by 115% since Election Day. Now, following a recent incident involving a New York City police officer, Muslim members of the department are requesting a meeting with the President-Elect to discuss these disturbing incidents.

In early December, NYPD officer Aml Elsokary was on the receiving end of a hate crime in the streets of Brooklyn. Elsokary, a Muslim woman, confronted a man after he shoved her teenaged son. The man then called Elsokary a member of the Islamic State, told her to go back to her country, and threatened to cut her throat. Christopher Nelson was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment and menacing as a hate crime.

Startlingly, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States. But both anecdotal and scientific evidence illustrates that the danger might be worse for female members of the Muslim faith. Elsokary’s story is hardly commonplace in our current political climate. Although many Muslim women wear a hijab in public as a sign of their religious devotion and modesty, some have felt the need to remove it for the sake of their own safety.

Indeed, imams around the U.S. are echoing the fears of these women and have stated that they should have the freedom to take off their hijabs if they feel they are in peril. Senior fellow and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, Engy Abdelkader, notes that “one of the reasons [Muslim] women are encouraged to dress modestly is for their own protection. Once that purpose is no longer served, there’s an argument that it becomes a matter of necessity to remove it.”

While some Muslim women are choosing to leave their hair uncovered, others are taking a more active approach by fighting back. Some are choosing to buy pepper spray or are applying for permits to carry a concealed weapon. But many are embracing the idea of learning how to defend themselves with their own bodies.

On Election Day, New York’s Muslim Community Network posted a Facebook notice regarding a self-defense workshop they were offering. Leaders of the organization had predicted some 50 or 60 women would want to take part. To their surprise, 2,700 women signed up for the workshop within hours.

Even outside New York State, Muslim organizations are holding self-defense classes specifically geared towards female members of the community. In Minnesota, the class sizes may be smaller, but the threat of danger feels just as real. The majority of women in the the 20-person class held at the Al-Amal School in Fridley, MN stated they had already been in situations that made them feel unsafe. One woman was chased through a parking lot; another described an incident wherein a man tried to pull off her hijab. Others had been harassed by drivers on the street. While some said they had never been personally attacked, they all said they had begun to feel unsafe over the last several weeks.

Their feelings are substantiated by recent FBI statistics, which show that the number of assaults on Muslims last year was the highest it’s been since right after the September 11th attacks in 2001. In the first 10 days after the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that 867 hate incidents were reported.

These recent attacks, including the one involving Officer Aml Elsokary — who was honored for her courage in 2014 for saving a child from a burning building — require action from the community. While representatives of a large group of Muslim NYPD officers, 900 cops in all, have risen to the challenge by requesting a meeting with Donald Trump, the President-Elect has yet to respond.

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