Police investigate hate crime as Muslim tourist has clothes set on fire
Police in New York are hunting for a man who set fire to a Scottish Muslim tourist’s clothes while she was shopping on Fifth Avenue.
The 36-year-old woman was browsing the boutiques on Saturday evening when she felt heat on her arm. She looked down and realised her blouse had been set on fire.
“She saw the suspect pull a lighter away and walk away,” a police source told The New York Daily News. “He doesn’t say anything.”
The woman, who was unharmed, went to the police – who published photographs showing the suspect swaggering along East 54th Street, minutes after the attack. The young black man is wearing a black sleeveless vest, black trousers and a hat.
Police are treating the incident as a possible hate crime.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, urged a full investigation.
“I would obviously be concerned because it’s symptomatic of the overall rise in Islamophobic sentiment in our society,” he said.
The attack on the tourist came days after a 32-year-old woman from Brooklyn, who had written anti-Islamic rants on Facebook, attacked two young mothers pushing their children in prams.
Emirjeta Xhelili allegedly punched the women in the face and tried to rip the hijabs from their heads.
Prosecutors claimed that Xhelili shouted Islamophobic abuse at the woman, telling them: “Get the f--- out of here. Get the f--- out of America b----s … This is America — you shouldn’t be different from us."
She was arrested around half an hour after the alleged assault, after the two women pointed her out to police officers. She was later arraigned on a charge of misdemeanor assault as a hate crime at Brooklyn Criminal Court.
“She didn’t even care for the well-being of a baby — that’s how serious this hate crime is,” Kelli Muse, the assistant district attorney, told the court. “She continued to taunt the victims in front of police while in custody, saying ‘You guys don’t belong here.”
Xhelili was held on $50,000 (£37,500) bond or $25,000 cash bail.
She had posted numerous anti-Muslim comments on her Facebook page, including one the day before the alleged attack, saying: “From this moment on, every woman that waers (sic) the jihab/hijab will go to hell!! I cant stand you f---ing hypocrites. You have been warned."