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Anti-Muslim rage hurts Indian

Greg Frost

Thursday 24 July 2003, by FROST*Greg

New bedford, July 22: ’’Go back to Iraq!’’ the young men shouted as they beat and kicked the pizza delivery man in the face, breaking his jaw in three places. They bound his body with rope, stuffed a sock in his mouth to muffle his screams for help and used the back of his neck as an ashtray. They stuffed him into the trunk of a car, where he managed to set himself free - only to be stabbed.

The victim of this Massachusetts attack was neither a Muslim nor an Iraqi but a Hindu from Indore. After the attack he was left with a pierced lung and liver. Sipping his meals through a straw, 24-year-old Saurabh Bhalerao showed little emotion as he recounted the details of what he called ’’an isolated incident.’’

But the attack may be part of a wider trend. A new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations revealed hostility, discrimination and violence have risen in America against Muslims and people simply presumed to be Muslims.

’’They didn’t even know the difference between India and Iraq,’’ Bhalerao said. Bhalerao took a job in June at a pizzeria to support his studies at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. On his second day on the job, he was ambushed while delivering to a home in New Bedford.

’’I told them to take my money,’’ he recalled. ’’One of them may have noticed my accent because they immediately started beating me harder. They kept on screaming: ’Go back to Iraq!’ ’’ ’’They had probably planned to rob me at first. But the way they started treating me because they thought I was from West Asia - I could see the hate in their behaviour,’’ the graduate student said.

Police believe the attack began as a robbery but escalated into something more brutal. Hate crime charges have been filed against four men, along with charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery and other crimes.

The attack against Bhalerao marked the second time in seven months that non-Muslim Indians have been victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Massachusetts alone. In May, a Sikh in Arizona was shot twice by assailants. Last year in New York, three men warned another Sikh ’’not to bomb another building.’’ (Reuters)

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