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Muslim woman victim of racist atrocity

Published Oct 26, 2006 10:42 PM

The brutal murder of a Muslim woman in Fremont, Calif., has sent a wave of fear through the city’s Afghani community. On Oct. 19, Alia Ansari was walking down a residential street with her 3-year-old daughter when a man stopped his car, stepped out and shot her once in the head. He then got back in the car and sped away.

Ansari’s family and community believe her killing was a hate crime and that she was targeted because she was wearing a hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference the next day to condemn Ansari’s killing and demand that the police investigate it as a hate crime.

“We call on the police to investigate this issue thoroughly and on a timely basis, and to determine whether this was a hate crime or not, especially in light of the actual circumstances of the crime, and in light of the current political climate,” CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Coordinator Abdul Rahman Hamamsy said in a statement.

Ansari, 37, had emigrated from Afghanistan in 1986. She lived in Fremont, one of the largest Afghani communities in the United States, with a business district dubbed “Little Kabul.”

Ansari was walking to a nearby elementary school to pick up her five other children when she was shot. The media reported on Oct. 21 that the police had detained a man as a “person of interest” in the killing but had not charged him.

CAIR, a Muslim civil liberties group, issued a report earlier in the year noting that anti-Muslim hate crime complaints had increased 30 percent in 2005 over the previous year. The group processed 1,972 civil rights complaints of harassment, violence and discrimination, and 153 reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes, an 8.6 percent increase from 2004.

For the Muslim community, Ansari’s murder is a result of anti-Muslim bigotry. “Justice will not be served by merely catching the killer,” Ali Ansari’s brother Hassan Ansari told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We have to figure out how to stop these kinds of things from happening.  ... American society is what feeds people’s ignorance.”