The disturbing and tragic news that a seven-year-old US citizen child was beat up on a schoolbus for being Muslim is just the latest episode of harassment and attacks his family has endured, according to a new report from the Huffington Post.
First-grader Abdul was beat up by five classmates on their way to school in Cary, North Carolina. According to Abdul’s father, the five made fun of Abdul’s name and “punched him in the face, kicked him in the stomach, and twisted his arm while calling him ‘Muslim’ again and again.”
According to the Huffington Post, this was not an isolated incident for the family: In the past, Abdul’s older brother was called “ISIS” and a “terrorist” by his classmates, the family was harassed by a neighbor with racist slurs, and the family’s mosque was threatened by a man with a gun who told “parishioners there that he was going to kill them and bury them behind the mosque.”
Even though Abdul was born in the US, the attack was the last straw for the family, and they were forced to flee to Pakistan for their own safety. “It’s not the America we know about, care about and want to live in,” said Usmani, Abdul’s dad:
Usmani remembers his middle son, 8 years old, being very angry one day after being picked up from school. Apparently his classmates had told him his dad ― a Pakistani man with a beard ― was a terrorist.
“He asked me if I was a terrorist,” Usmani recalled. After that, Bhagwanee asked him not to go to the school anymore, “just so my children would not face any discrimination because of my face.”
There was the time Usmani’s eldest son, 14, saw a classmate bring a knife into school that his dad had bought in Colombia. When Usmani’s son brought a knife into school that his dad had bought in Pakistan, students called him “ISIS” and “terrorist.” The school went on lockdown and he was suspended for six months, Usmani said. He added that the experience was traumatic for his son, who’s been homeschooled ever since and now suffers from depression and anxiety.
Earlier this year, there was the neighbor that constantly harassed them, once calling them “motherfuckers” and threatening Usmani’s wife.
“He came to our apartment twice at midnight and at 2:00 AM, passing racial slurs, teaching us how to ‘behave’ and “’live in this country,’ mentioning Donald Trump and his desire to vote for him to kick us out of this country,” Usmani wrote in an email to the Cary Police Department in July. (That type of harassment from neighbors is sadly familiar to Muslims or people perceived to be Muslim, and has culminated in the murders of three people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and one person in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the last two years.)
The neighbor eventually moved, Usmani said, adding that the local police department was “really great” in handling the situation.
In June, a man brandished a handgun at the mosque the Usmani family attends in nearby Fayetteville, telling parishioners there that was going to kill them and bury them behind the mosque. The man allegedly behind the threats, Iraq War veteran Russell Thomas Langford, also left packages of bacon outside the mosque, a common insult to Muslims, whose faith forbids them from eating pork. When police arrived and arrested Langford, they found multiple guns inside his truck along with 500 rounds of ammunition.
While Usmani’s family wasn’t at the mosque that day, the event still left them shaken, he said.
In September, the Fort Pierce, Florida mosque where Usmani says he used to attend Eid services when he was a student, was set on fire. The alleged arsonist, Joseph Screiber, had made anti-Muslim and pro-Trump Facebook posts in the months leading up to the attack.
All that happened in just the last year.
This rise in harassment against Muslim-Americans has widely been attributed to Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, with a report highlighted by The Atlantic showing “that anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose sharply in 2015 to the highest levels since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.”
Donald Trump announced his Presidential campaign in June 2015, and proposed his ban on Muslims entering the United States later that year.
According to a new survey released by the the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 91% of respondents thought Trump’s proposed ban was wrong. 85% of respondents believe Islamophobia is on the rise, with 30% saying that they were themselves victims of discrimination or profiling in the last year.
We’ve tracked the attack against Abdul and dozens of other people of color on our “Trump Hate Map” here.