Racist vandalism in Chelan prompts call for FBI investigation
Originally published September 13, 2012 at 9:56 a.m., updated September 14, 2012 at 9:18 a.m.
The original version of this story included an incorrect word used in one of the racial slurs, where a G was misread as a C in "Doon Goons." The error has been corrected in this version.
CHELAN — Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, more and more of Ahmed Brown’s friends and family members have experienced anti-Muslim hate crimes.
But until his visit with eight other Muslims to Lake Chelan on Sept. 1, the 25-year-old Bellevue man hadn’t been a victim.
The group of friends, most of them college students, spent the day playing at the lake, only to return to their rental car to find racial slurs scrawled across it, Brown said Monday.
The BMW also had deep scratch marks from front to back, and pictures of breasts and a penis etched into its paint.
“These things are happening across America, so I wasn’t surprised that it happened to a group like us,” Brown said in a telephone interview Monday.
The slurs, “Doon Goon,” with dune apparently misspelled, and “Sand Niggers,” were obviously aimed at Middle Eastern Muslims, he said, although none of the nine people in his group are Arabs, he said.
“It was a bit ironic, but I expect the irony to be lost on the perpetrators,” he said.
Brown is an American, and currently a student at the University of Washington. He said his parents converted to the Islam religion.
His mother, who wears a head scarf, has been a victim. She was pushed from the curb into oncoming traffic, but was able to get out of the way before she was hit, he said. “Since 9/11, Muslims have noticed a big upshot” in anti-Muslim sentiment, Brown said.
Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Seattle branch, said hate crimes against Muslims have been directly tied to anti-Muslim rhetoric by politicians and religious leaders.
The civil rights group has asked the FBI to investigate. Bukhari said he doesn’t expect the federal agency can do anything more than the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office is now doing. But, “At the very least, it puts a little extra motivation to local authorities to take the case seriously,” he said.
He’s urging citizens who may have seen someone in the parking lot, or who may have heard of someone bragging about the crime, to contact the sheriff’s office.
Authorities believe the incident may have been prompted by the group praying in public.
Brown said the vandal may have followed them to the watercraft parking lot after they had prayed in the parking lot of the nearby Best Western, or they may have heard or seen their names — all Muslim sounding — when they checked out their watercraft. He said their prayer prior to driving to the Jet Ski rental parking lot was a very distinctive series of prostrations and bows.
The vandalism occurred at Jet Skis Ahoy, 1230 W. Woodin Ave., sometime before 8:18 p.m., when they reported it.
Brown said they also prayed in the Jet Ski rental parking lot after reporting the incident to police, he said.
The malicious mischief could be classified as a hate crime, said John Wisemore, Chelan County Sheriff’s chief of operations, but added, “This was more of a malicious harassment, more than a hate crime.”
Brown said many Muslims worry about further harassment, so they don’t want to talk about their experiences with hate crimes. “I just felt the need to take a stand and to say very clearly that we’re not going to be afraid or intimidated by things like this.”
He said he hopes those who committed the vandalism will take the time to get to know a Muslim. “I think it’s hard to harbor hate when you know we’re normal Americans. We have the same goals and the same ambitions. ... I would say get to know some, so you can see that we’re not all that different from you.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
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