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Chicago Tribune: Tinley Park woman charged with hate crime for tugging on woman’s head scarf

By Kim Janssen and Joel Hood

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ft-hood-tinley-park-hate-crinov19,0,7710648.story

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amal_ctA suburban Chicago woman has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly yanking the head scarf of a Muslim woman in Tinley Park two days after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.

Valerie Kenney, 54, a bank teller from Tinley Park, appeared at the Bridgeview Courthouse on Wednesday and was released on $5,000 bail. If convicted of the felony, Kenney faces up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. She is due back in court Dec. 3.

“I think (a charge of hate crime) sends the appropriate message that these kinds of race-based lash-outs are unacceptable,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Every time something like (the Fort Hood shootings) happens, the Muslim community prepares for a backlash.”

Amal Abusumayah, 28, told police she was shopping at a Tinley Park grocery store Nov. 7 when a middle-age woman passed her in the aisle and made a loud reference to the killings at Fort Hood.

“She said, ‘The man that did that shooting in Texas was from the Middle East,’ in a really loud and angry voice,” Abusumayah told the Tribune last week. Minutes later, while Abusumayah was paying for her groceries at a self-checkout, the woman approached her from behind and tugged hard on her blue and beige head scarf, she said.

“I turned around and looked at her, and she walked out of the store,” she said. “My scarf didn’t come off because it was on very tight, but my head was tugged back.”

Abusumayah, who was born in the United States and raised in Berwyn by Palestinian immigrants, followed the woman into the lot and called police, who arrested Kenney within minutes.

Kenney declined to comment after the court appearance.

Reached at home Wednesday, Abusumayah also declined to comment, saying she did not want to provoke “a backlash.”

She said last week that the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, where 13 soldiers were killed, were “very upsetting and very sad to me — as Muslims and Arabs we do not tolerate these kinds of actions.”

The scarf incident was the first of two apparent race-related attacks in Tinley Park in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, Police Chief Michael O’Connell said. On Nov. 8, a Muslim family found racist graffiti on the front of their home, O’Connell said. The person rang the family’s doorbell but ran off, O’Connell said.

He said hate crimes such as the one Kenney is charged with “attack the dignity of people because of their religious beliefs, race or sexual orientation, and we don’t tolerate that here.”

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

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