U.S.A: Stabbing of Muslim Woman in East Bay Shopping Center Stirs Up Fears for Community

Mercury News

The stabbing of a 50-year-old Muslim woman wearing a head scarf has reignited simmering fears within eastern Contra Costa's Islamic community, where a mosque was destroyed by arson six years ago.

While authorities say the stabbing was not motivated by hate, it has become the topic of sermons, sparked a community meeting this week with Antioch police Chief Allan Cantando, and renewed a call for safety among Muslims, particularly women.

"The community there is very nervous," said Rachel Roberts of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The 50-year-old victim, who teaches Sunday school and does other social services, had dropped her children off at school and was buying groceries at Save Mart on Contra Loma Boulevard in Antioch on May 30 at about 8 a.m. when the attack occurred, according to police and Mohammad Chaudhry, founding president of Antioch's Islamic Center of the East Bay. The woman was stabbed multiple times but is expected to recover.

Officers quickly apprehended Jeffrey Crimson, 35, who was initially captured and held by witnesses, police said. Prosecutors have charged Crimson with attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon and great bodily injury enhancements.

Police believe the woman was randomly targeted, and nothing in the police reports suggests the stabbing was a hate crime, said Contra Costa prosecutor Mark Eichman.

Still, as word of the attack spread through the community, manybegan to worry that the woman was stabbed because she was wearing a headscarf. Another theory was that the attack may have been retaliation for the brutal daytime killing in London in which two men reported to be motivated by radical Islam stabbed a man to death using butcher knives.

In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent out a safety guide and the community has requested Antioch police patrol Islamic centers during Ramadan, a monthlong observance of fasting that begins July 8 and includes nighttime prayers.

A meeting with Chief Cantando on Wednesday seems to have eased some of the tension, said Abdul Rahman, chairman of the board of trustee for Antioch's Islamic Center of the East Bay.

"It has put more fear in ladies than men," said Rahman. "We are asking them to go in pairs if they can, go with a brother or husband."

In August 2007, an early-morning blaze left the prayer rooms at Antioch's Islamic Center of the East Bay scorched, a fire authorities determined was set intentionally. No suspects have been arrested.

Perhaps most troubling to members of the center was that the fire fit a pattern: the mosque had been vandalized, hit with gunfire and received threatening phone calls and voice mails in previous years. A smaller intentional fire had been set there in 2002.

Despite some initial doubts, the embrace of Antioch's faith community and civic leaders in the wake of the fire helped ease the situation -- and the center reopened the mosque in June 2009. Chaudhry expressed that same optimism over last week's incident, pointing to the fact that witnesses came to the 50-year-old woman's aid and chased down the suspect.

"We have a good understanding with our neighbors. My focus has been more on the goodness that was displayed by the good Samaritans that risked their lives to chase him down," he said. "The point is she was an innocent, hardworking woman that was stabbed for nothing and the question is, why did he do it?

"I still have confidence in the goodness of people."

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