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Muslim Leaders Irked By Light Sentence Of Hate Crime
September 24, 2003

By Dina Rashed

Chicago, September 24 ( – Leaders of the Muslim community vocalized their frustration in objection to the light sentence was issued by the 5th District of Cook County Circuit Court against a man who threw a bomb at a Chicago Muslim family last March.

Eric K. Nix assaulted the Muslim family in the South Chicago neighborhood of Burbank, by throwing an explosive device which blew off the door of the their van and left a big hole in its the floor. The family escaped unscathed.

The assailant had an earlier criminal record of committing hate crimes against the Muslim community, when he broke the window of a furniture store owned by an Arab a few days after 9-11 attacks. He served 30 days in prison as a result.

In the van case, the court sentenced Nix to two years of probation and attendance of anger management classes, a sentence that raised many questions about the even handedness of the court system when it comes to hate crimes committed against Muslim Americans.

“I am at a loss of words, to give anger management classes to a person who threw a bomb at an innocent Muslim family!!” exclaimed Safaa Zarzour of the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago and President of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago chapter.

“We at the Council of Islamic Organization and other Muslim communities around Chicago, believe there is something terribly wrong with court sentences when acts of terrorism are committed against Muslims,” she told a press conference Tuesday, September 23.

Zarzour brought up another court sentence that was issued earlier in the case of a Florida Podiatrist who planed on blowing several Islamic centers, and later admitted to his wrong doings and acquisition of explosives in order to carry out acts of terror against the Muslim houses of worship and community centers.

Despite the fact that he was sentenced to 12 and half years of imprisonment, a sentence that was hailed earlier by CAIR Florida chapter, Zarzour expressed his discontent to the ruling because the terrorism laws were not applied in this case either.

“What kind of message is being sent to patriotic Muslim Americans who have been here for generations?” asked Ali Khan, Executive Director of American Muslim Council chapter in Chicago, “here we are trying to bring equal rights and justice for Iraqis, how about those who have been living here for generations and generations?”

“You are alienating the Muslim community by sending out messages like this,” khan told reporters, addressing law enforcement authorities.

Khan stressed that had it been a Muslim who committed these crimes against the Christian or the Jewish communities, that person would have probably been sent to Guantanamo Bay prison without any rights, and would have been classified as enemy combatant.

In an earlier meeting with the FBI, that took place prior to the press conference, leaders of the Muslim community raised the case ruling and its disproportion to the severity of the crime committed, and the law enforcement authorities promised to look into it, Zarzour said.

Hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs rose to a sky rocketing level following the events of September 11, and law enforcement officials were not fully prepared to combat such onslaught, a recent report by the Human Rights (HRW) Watch advocacy group said Thursday, November 14.

Since the 9-11 attacks, the Chicago FBI and other law enforcement authorities have been meeting with the Muslim community leaders, and others who could be mistaken for being either Arab or Muslim such as the Sikh community, in order to establish continuing channels of communication regarding security concerns.

Chicago community leaders said they will continue to voice their resentment to the discrimination against the innocent community members until justice is served.

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