OKLAHOMA CITY - The state's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling for Dallas authorities to investigate a reported assault against an Oklahoma mother as a hate crime.
Jenan Ayesh, 33, lives in Enid and works in Oklahoma City. Ayesh was visiting Dallas with her family this weekend and claimed she was attacked by a woman who "simply just wanted to use the door that we were standing in front of" while at the Reunion Tower.
"[She] told me to go back to my country, as I was explaining to her this is my country and I am an American. She told me that if I was American, then why do I wear this scarf (hijab) on my head? I told her because I am an American-Muslim," Ayesh said Friday at a press conference.
Ayesh was born in Detroit, Michigan. She recalled the woman, who Dallas police have only described as "an unknown Latin female suspect," first slapped her.
"She struck another time and, at this point, she hit me in the middle of my head. I felt my eyes go blurry. I couldn’t see in front of me. She had me by the scarf. She took it off my head and went on pulling my hair," she said. "At that point, people were more concerned of her well-being, not mine. I even heard one of the women tell her 'It’s okay, sweetie.' They were protecting her, as if I was the one who was attacking her – not the other way around."
A doctor confirmed Ayesh suffered a concussion.
"The first night, I didn’t feel anything. The next day, I felt a very bad headache. My neck hurt, my chest a little bit. I guess, from all the adrenaline rush that I had, that’s why I didn’t feel it the first night. But, the next day, I was in pain," she said. "It was very hard for me to experience this. I never thought I would get attacked in this way, especially not in front of my mom. My oldest daughter had to witness that, too. No child has to ever see their mom in that kind of condition or have to experience that."
On Friday, CAIR Oklahoma called for authorities in Dallas to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
"No one should have to fear verbal harassment, physical assault or further violence because of the way they choose to dress whether because of religious choices or personal inclination," said CAIR Oklahoma civil rights director Veronica Laizure. "No one should be told to go back to your own country simply because they don’t fit someone’s close-minded view of what an American looks like."
Laizure said CAIR Oklahoma tracks anti-Muslim bias incidents across the state and shares that information with national offices.
"In 2017, CAIR Oklahoma noted a 15 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes and Oklahoma came in second only to Texas at the highest number of anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in the south-central region," she said.
CAIR Oklahoma executive director Adam Soltani said, unfortunately, they have dealt with situations similiar to Ayesh's in the past.
"This is the result of the atmosphere of Islamophobia that exists in America. We can see it from everywhere whether it be amongst the common people, whether it be from politicians or whether it be from some media outlets. There are attacks on Muslims left and right. Many of those attacks – which are based on false assumptions," he said. "I would say the vast majority of cases when dealing with hate crimes and discrimination that CAIR Oklahoma has dealt with the past 13 years involve women who wear a hijab because that’s a very visible symbol of their faith."
However, Soltani said they want to use the latest incident as an opportunity to educate.
"We, as Americans, should work on creating an atmosphere that encourages dialogue respecting differences and building a foundation based on understanding, based on things we have in common so that we can move forward in a way in which everyone can live peacefully," he said.
Police in Dallas confirmed they are investigating the case:
"On December 30, 2018 at about 8:18 p.m., officers responded to a major disturbance call in the 7600 block of LBJ Freeway. Upon arrival, officers met with the victim that stated she was downtown Dallas at the Renaissance Tower around 7:30 p.m., when an unknown Latin female suspect approached her and told her to move out the way. The suspect then assaulted the victim and fled the location in an unknown direction. The victim stated she felt pain but didn’t need any medical attention. This is an on-going investigation, and it will be documented on case number 278235-2018."