Rashida Tlaib speaks while wearing a keffiyeh

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) takes part in a demonstration in Washington D.C. on October 18, 2023.

(Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Tlaib Calls for DOJ Hate Crime Probe After Palestinian American Stabbed in Texas

"The constant dehumanization of Palestinians, Arab, and Muslim Americans has real, dangerous consequences," the Michigan Democrat warned.

Democratic Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday joined a leading Muslim advocacy group in urging the U.S. Department of Justice to open a hate crime investigation following the stabbing of a young Palestinian American man in Texas.

Zacharia Doar, 23, and three other Muslim American men were driving home from a Sunday evening demonstration against Israel's war on Gaza—which has killed, wounded, or left missing more than 100,000 Palestinians—when "a white male riding a bicycle, later identified as Bert James Baker, allegedly attempted to rip a flagpole with a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf reading 'Free Palestine' off of their car," according to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR continued:

According to the victims, Baker repeatedly screamed the n-word and other obscenities, opened the passenger door, pulled one of the victims out of the car, and physically attacked him. The three others in the car say they then exited the car and fought off Baker. After Baker appeared to be subdued, he allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed one of the young men in the chest, breaking one of his ribs.

The stabbing victim again subdued Baker, who was arrested after police arrived on the scene. The father of the stabbing victim reports that he has undergone a successful surgery and is recovering at the hospital.

The Austin Police Department said Tuesday that it believes the attack was "bias-motivated" and it would forward details of the incident to the city's Hate Crime Review Commission.

"A 23-year-old Palestinian American was stabbed last night in Texas—the latest hate crime against Palestinian Americans," Tlaib said on social media. "The constant dehumanization of Palestinians, Arab, and Muslim Americans has real, dangerous consequences. The Justice Department must investigate this as a hate crime."

U.S. Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas)—whose district includes parts of Austin—also condemned the attack, asserting on social media that "the recent rise in Islamophobia in this country is leading to deadly violence."

"We must condemn all anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim hate and violence," he added. "It should have no place in Austin or our country."

At a Tuesday press conference organized by CAIR, the stabbing victim's father, Nizar Doar, described his son as loving husband and dad of a 5-month-old baby and blamed U.S. President Joe Biden for the attack.

"Mr. Joe Biden, I blame you for what happened to me," he said. "If you would have called for a cease-fire three months ago, this would have never happened."

Doar implored Austin city leaders to educate themselves about Israel's ongoing genocide in Gaza.

"We beg you to take action," he said. "Look at the human side of it, please. This is not just about Zacharia or me or our beloved brothers in Vermont or Michigan. It's about humanity everywhere in the world and humanity in Gaza. Please take action immediately and stop the genocide in Gaza."

"All I want is justice for my son and justice for our people in Gaza," Doar added.

In an earlier statement, CAIR-Austin board chair Fayyaz Shah said: "The entire Austin Muslim community stands in solidarity with these young members of our community, who appear to be the latest victims of a surge in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate across our nation. We encourage law enforcement to file hate crime charges against the suspect and we also encourage federal law enforcement to open a hate crime probe."

CAIR national deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell contended that "this apparent act of hate in Austin appears to be the latest incident of hate motivated by the rise in anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia."

That bigotry, critics say, includes statements from politicians and the press including The Wall Street Journal, which this week published an opinion piece calling Dearborn, Michigan—where 4 in 10 residents are Arabs—"America's Jihad Capital."

"From the murder of six-year-old Wadea [al-Fayoume] outside Chicago to the shooting of three college students in Burlington, Vermont, far too many incidents of violence against Muslims, Palestinians, and others who support Palestinian human rights have occurred over the past several months," Mitchell said. "Those responsible for this violence must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and those fomenting the hate that leads to this violence must be condemned."

According to CAIR, the U.S. saw a 178% rise in Islamophobic incidents during the final three months of 2023 compared with a similar period the previous year. Advocacy groups have also reported a surge in antisemitism in the months since the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel—although the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks such incidents, has come under fire for conflating opposition to the state of Israel's crimes of genocide, apartheid, occupation, settler colonization, and ethnic cleansing with antisemitism.

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