Woman targeted in car break-in for wearing headscarf

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FREMONT (BCN)—The Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is denouncing an apparent hate crime on Monday in which a woman was targeted for an auto break-in at a Fremont park because she was wearing a headscarf.

The perpetrator left a note on her smashed car that reads: “Hijab wearing b—- this is our nation now get the f— out.” Even though the woman is not a Muslim, she was apparently mistaken for one because she was wearing a scarf to protect her scalp from the sun.

There has been a spike in hate crimes directed against Muslims in the last two years and particularly since last week’s election of Donald Trump as president, according to CAIR. Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

“Californians of all faiths and backgrounds should be free of harassment and intimidation as they go about their daily lives,” CAIR’s Bay Area executive director Zahra Billoo said in a statement. “Local police should investigate this incident as a possible violation of our state’s criminal statutes.”

East Bay Regional Parks police are doing exactly that, parks spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said today. The woman, Nicki Pancholy, was hiking in Mission Peak Regional Preserve as part of a project to hike to the top daily for 65 days and blog about it.

Pancholy posted videos from the parking lot before her hike and from the peak, followed by a third video on her return showing her smashed car window. In the video, Pancholy said she forgives the perpetrator and knows they are hurting.

“I hope the hate within you goes away,” she said.

Jones said the incident is being investigated as an auto break-in, burglary and hate crime. She said that investigators are looking for anyone who saw something suspicious in the area that day.

“Hate speech of any kind is not tolerated in the parks,” Jones said. “The parks are welcome to everybody and this case is a priority.”

While she said auto burglaries are common in some of the parks, though not Mission Peak, hate crimes are quite rare. A recent high-profile case of a woman who attacked two Muslim men praying in Lake Chabot Regional Park resulted in criminal charges.

According to CAIR, hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise all over the country. FBI statistics noted a rise in crimes against Muslims in 2015 and CAIR has particularly noted a spike since Trump’s election.

There have been several prominent examples in the Bay Area in the last week, including a 19-year-old San Jose State University student who was attacked in a campus parking garage for wearing a hijab and a viral video of a BART passenger berating a woman who was speaking Assyrian on a train.

Anyone with who saw anything suspicious at Mission Peak on Monday has been asked to call the East Bay Regional Park District’s anonymous tip line at (510) 690-6521.

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