White man harasses Muslim girls at restaurant — now the mom of one of the girls is speaking out
A Ramadan meal turned ugly Monday night when a white man started verbally harassing five teenage Muslim girls at a Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in Hickory Hills, Illinois.
In video footage of the incident shared to Facebook Tuesday by Sean Anthony — stepfather of one of the girls — the harasser can be seen lashing out at them as they confront him about a crude comment he'd allegedly made earlier.
"You can go and beat it," the man says in the video. "If you don’t like this country, leave."
"It’s our home, too. What do you mean 'leave'?" Anthony's stepdaughter, Sawin Osman, 17, replies.
At one point, the man starts rising from his seat in a threatening manner and the girls head toward the exit.
"Fucking goddamn, camel-jacking, mother-fucking cunts!" the man shouts after them.
You can watch footage of the exchange below:
According to Anthony's post, the confrontation began when the girls were enjoying iftar, the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast. The harasser — who has not been publicly identified — allegedly walked by their table and made a comment about the weight of one of the girls.
"[She's] so big she'd break a camel's back," he allegedly said.
As they were about to leave, the girls approached the man's table to confront him about his comment. That's when the video above begins. A female companion can be seen sitting across from the man, silent. No one at any of the surrounding tables or on the restaurant's staff intervened, said Cathy Bronson, Osman's mother and a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
"I think that in the charged climate that we live in, these thoughts and emotions have a platform on which to be expressed," Bronson said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I don't want to be reductive and say this is all Trump's fault, but people have been emboldened to express what they might have kept to themselves before."
"I don't want to be reductive and say this is all Trump's fault, but people have been emboldened to express what they might have kept to themselves before."
The incident comes less than two weeks after a separate case of Islamophobic harassment turned deadly. On May 26 in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed three men who intervened to stop his anti-Muslim tirade against two teenage girls on a MAX train. Two of the men died of their wounds.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the United States saw 2,213 reported anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2016, a 57% increase over 2015. This designation includes hate crimes, harassment, denial of religious accommodation and employment discrimination. The rise in this type of incident has been partly attributed to President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly targeted Muslims in his rhetoric and policies.
Bronson said that the Portland incident might have dissuaded bystanders from stepping in when such incidents occur, but she's proud of her daughter for standing up for herself and her friends.
"People were just watching," Bronson said. "The Portland incident might have compelled people into silence and fear. But over the years, thousands have intervened, stepped in and said kind words.
"Inaction," she added, "is inexcusable at that level. Silence promotes cowardice."
The girls have reported the incident to local law enforcement and plan to speak to police again in person on Wednesday. Sawin Osman did not immediately respond to Mic's request for comment.