Amal Abusumayah was paying for her groceries when she felt a sharp tug on her headscarf.
When she looked at who had pulled her hijab, Abusumayah saw a woman who moments earlier had made a derogatory comment about Islam.
“I was shaken up,” Abusumayah said of the Nov. 7 assault. “This is my dignity and this is my religion.”
Tinley Park police are investigating the battery as a hate crime, Chief Michael O’Connell said.
But that’s not the only one.
Another family woke up Nov. 8 to find derogatory terms written on their home in the 8800 block of 172nd Street.
Both of those crimes occurred just days after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly shot and killed 13 people and wounded 29 more at Fort Hood, Texas.
Abusumayah said the woman who tugged her scarf said, “The guy that did the Texas shooting, he wasn’t American and he was from the Middle East.”
Abusumayah ignored the comment and continued shopping. She was checking out when the woman tried to pull off her headscarf.
The stay-at-home mother of four young girls couldn’t put up with that insult and abuse — she followed the woman out of the store, called police and waited until they arrived.
Abusumayah said she is going to press charges against the woman.
“If I don’t do this, in the future (violence) might escalate,” said Abusumayah, 28.
O’Connell said that’s exactly why people should report these types of crimes.
“If you don’t try to stop it, the behavior will continue,” he said. But if people are charged for their crimes, O’Connell said, “they’ll get the message they better not do it.”
A hate crime is a felony that carries a possible sentence of one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, police said.
No other Southland community has issued a report of hate crimes in the past week.
In Bridgeview, which has a large Muslim population, police were concerned about possible hate crimes after the Fort Hood shootings, but nothing has been reported, police said.
“The fact they’re not reported doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I wonder about how many more are not reported?”
Victims of these types of crimes end up questioning their place in the community, he said.
“You feel unsafe and you feel betrayed,” Rehab said.
O’Connell said police are investigating both Tinley Park incidents, but no charges have been filed.
Rehab said his organization has reached out to the FBI to pursue federal charges.
And while Abusumayah now is more cautious, she’s still making her daily trips to the Tinley Park Jewel grocery store where she was attacked.
“I’m a tough cookie,” she said.