BAY RIDGE — The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating a shocking anti-Muslim incident in an 86th Street clothing store on Saturday in which a woman shouted “Go back to your country!” at a hijab-wearing female and her husband, and then attempted to knock a cell phone out of the husband’s hand.
The ugly scene unfolded inside T.J. Maxx at 502 86th St., at around 1 p.m., according to police.
Mido Mourad, a 41-year-old Egyptian journalist living in New York, has stated in media interviews that he was shopping with his wife for winter clothes for their children and that both were standing at the store’s checkout counter when they were approached by a woman who shouted “Go back to your country!” The suspect also cursed at the couple.
Mourad walked out of the store to call 911. The suspect, who also left the store, threatened Mourad when she realized he was filming her with his cell phone. “I’m going to f— you up,” she told him as she attempted to knock the cell phone out of his hand.
The suspect fled the scene before police arrived.
The NYPD initially did not categorize the incident as a hate crime, only as a case of harassment.
But on Tuesday, an NYPD spokesperson told the Home Reporter in an email that the Hate Crime Task Force is now probing the troubling incident. “NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force has been notified and is looking into the incident,” the spokesperson said.
“The Hate Crime Task Force should absolutely be looking into the incident at TJ Maxx,” Councilmember Justin Brannan said. “Hate has no place in Bay Ridge. We celebrate our diversity and will not stand for our neighbors being accosted, threatened or assaulted for their religion or where they come from.
Brannan, U.S. Rep. Max Rose, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus wrote a letter to Dep. Insp. Mark Molinari, the commanding officer of the Hate Crime Task Force, requesting a task force probe.
“At minimum, this warrants an investigation by the Task Force, if not the charge of a hate crime, due to assault or menacing based on religion or perceived national origin,” the pols wrote.
In their letter, the lawmakers pointed out that Bay Ridge “is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the country.”
Linda Sarsour, a civil rights activist and former executive director of the Bay Ridge-based Arab-American Association of New York, said the NYPD needs to do more to safeguard Muslims in Bay Ridge.
“Every single resident of our community deserves to shop and walk freely in our neighborhood free of targeting and harassment. NYPD needs to send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated against our Arab, Muslim and immigrant neighbors,” Sarsour told the Home Reporter.