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Police Investigating Possible Hate Crime After Teenage Syrian Refugee Beaten On Trolley

Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, Aleena Jun Na...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, Aleena Jun Nawabi, Administrative and Outreach Coordinator of CAIR California and Dustin Craun, Executive Director of CAIR of San Diego, stand at a podium at a press conference to address a hate crime investigation, Oct. 17, 2019.

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Detectives are reviewing video footage that corroborates a teenage Syrian refugee's report of being attacked on a San Diego trolley by a man shouting epithets about the victim's ethnicity, a police spokesman said Thursday.

Aired: October 18, 2019 | Transcript

Detectives are reviewing video footage that corroborates a teenage Syrian refugee's report of being attacked on a San Diego trolley by a man shouting epithets about the victim's ethnicity, a police spokesman said Thursday.

The 17-year-old told authorities he was on his way home from school Tuesday afternoon when the assailant approached him on the light-rail tram and asked if he was Mexican.

When the teen identified himself as Arabic, the man began shouting anti-Arab and Islamophobic slurs and attacked him, according to the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Following the assault, which left the victim with facial injuries, the assailant got off the trolley at 62nd Street in Encanto.

Detectives investigating the case, which has been classified as a suspected hate crime, have tracked down video images that "substantiate the victim's statement," San Diego police Sgt. Matthew Botkin said.

No suspects in the case have been publicly identified.

Reported by Ebone Monet , Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), an organization located in City Heights that works to promote the fair treatment of refugee communities, released a statement in response to the attack.

“We are very upset to learn of the incident. All children, of any ethnicity or faith, should be safe when traveling on San Diego’s public transportation. The Islamophobic and hate-filled rhetoric used against this child is unacceptable, and is, unfortunately not surprising given the rising tide of hate-based crimes in San Diego County. We call on anyone in the community with information about the incident or the attacker to come forward,” said PANA Legal Director, Geneviéve Jones-Wright, Esq.

The assault comes nine days after a man was arrested in Little Italy for allegedly shoving Muslim women in hijabs and telling them to "go back to (their) country."

CAIR leaders say these incidents of violence speak to some of the findings of a recent CAIR California survey. A 2018-2019 survey of 1,500 students ages 11 to 18 found 40% of respondents reported being bullied for being Muslim. 72% of Muslim students reported feeling comfortable letting others know they were Muslims, that percentage is down from the 2016 survey when 77% of respondents felt the same. CAIR leaders say San Diego needs to do more to make immigrants and Muslims feel welcome and should consider ways to confront white supremacy.

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