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

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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.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego police are investigating a suspected hate crime. After a 17 year old was attacked on a trolley by a man yelling anti Arab and Islamophobic slurs. The attack happened just 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. Dustin Kron, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the council on American Islamic relations says this all points to a disturbing trend right here in our community. Dustin, welcome. Thank you for having me. Let's talk about the incident with the Syrian teenager. What's the latest in that investigation?

Speaker 2: 00:37 Well, he was just riding the trolley and a man approached him and asked him, are you Mexican? And he said, what language are you speaking? And so it just seems like very quickly he approached him because he was speaking Arabic to a friend on the phone. This is a 17 year old Syrian refugee. Uh, you know, all refugees and newcomers to this country are getting used to being in this place. Of course the majority of the language they will speak is their original tongue and their native tongue. And so then he starts yelling at the boy, cursing, cursing at the boy, and then punches him in the face multiple times.

Speaker 1: 01:12 Mmm. Have you been able to speak with the victim

Speaker 2: 01:14 through allies? We've spoken with the victim and his family and uh, the ma'am of the local mosque has talked to him. And so they're very disturbed by the incident. Of course they're coming here fleeing war. Right. And then coming to now a place that unfortunately at times can seem like a war zone for people of color and for Muslims and for oppressed populations in the midst of this presidency that is staring up so much hatred towards immigrants, Muslims, people of color broadly.

Speaker 1: 01:43 And this attack happened just weeks after the arrest of a man on suspicion of attacking three Muslim women wearing hijabs. Uh, what kind of impact do you think these incidents are having on San Diego's Muslim community?

Speaker 2: 01:56 This stuff happens every day a lot. Most of it's not even reported. Uh, most people don't come forward in the community because there's also issues of trust with police departments. You know, we see it on multiple layers. We see this in bullying in schools. We just released a report about bullying saying Muslim students are two times more likely to be bullied than their peers. And I think the statistic that stands out there more than a statistic, what stands out the most is the fact that we know that most of the Muslim parents, including myself, prefer to put our children in schools that are either majority Muslim or our Islamic schools because we know how bad the bullying is and that a lot of Muslim youth aren't even comfortable being publicly Muslim. The worst of this, the worst of weeks are when we have these hate crimes that are reported. But like I said, there's also hate crimes we're always hearing about that people don't want to come forward about even on this campus at San Diego state, there's recent reports of hate crimes and students being fearful of coming forward.

Speaker 1: 02:53 And I want to loop back into the report. Uh, it also says Muslim girls are at a higher risk of being targeted. Is that right?

Speaker 2: 03:01 I mean if you think about it, Muslim women wear the flag of Islam every day by wearing a headscarf and so they're the most visibly Muslim. Someone like myself, a white American Muslim who doesn't look visibly Muslim except for maybe my beard or because maybe you saw me on TV because of my job, people don't know who I am, right? People don't know that I'm Muslim. Even my name Dustin Kron doesn't sound like a Muslim name. Anything that has to do with a name, anything that has to do with your, where you're from, the language you're speaking, having an accent and especially a headscarf will make you more vulnerable within the society. So we, Muslim women need to be protected. And I think what's important to know also about what happened with this incident in little Italy is that there were bystanders who intervened. Whereas on the trolley there were nobody standards who intervened. And so by standards are so important that those people who know in their hearts that racism is wrong, who know that anti Muslim hatred, uh, and Islamophobia are wrong. We have to stand together and we have to defend each other. If, if this, if this type of stuff is happening to anyone, we should all stand together and, and try to stop racist violence within our society.

Speaker 1: 04:09 The report also noted that there has been a slight improvement in the school environment for Muslim students. Does that give you a sense of hope?

Speaker 2: 04:17 Like I said, I think that, I think the report is good, but I think that what I see generally is that the majority of Muslim parents are still uncomfortable even putting their, their students in public schools or in Muslim schools where their students will be big minority populations. There are some like Muslim majority schools that are public schools here in San Diego and they have huge waiting lists. The Islamic schools throughout California have huge waiting lists. Right. And I think that that, that's more proof than we need of who of where parents want their children to be at. Because of the state of public schools and how unwelcome Muslims are. And, and again, this isn't just about, this is about environment. This is about the fact that even our curriculum can create an environment where Muslim students feel harmed by what's being taught in the classroom.

Speaker 2: 05:03 How Islamic studies are taught or not taught, how, how, what's taught about Muslims, what's taught about religion. We need to have really, we need to have more robust curriculum about world religions. We still come from a curriculum system that's very Eurocentric and very Christian centric. And so we have to include, you know, ethnic studies. It shouldn't, isn't just about one class. The idea of ethnic studies and diversity within school systems has to be system wide. So it's important that you have broad understandings of diversity at the school districts so that we're teaching history correctly. So students of color feel comfortable. Period.

Speaker 1: 05:38 I have been speaking with Dustin Cron, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the council on American Islamic relations, Destin. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 3: 05:50 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.