Zacharia Doar, 23, was sitting in his car while waiting to leave a statewide protest on Feb. 4 at the Texas Capitol with three other young Muslims when a white man on a bicycle, identified as Bert James Baker, rode up to them, attempted to tear a Palestinian keffiyeh off their car, and screamed racial slurs at the passengers, police said. Baker then allegedly slammed open the car door, ripping Doar out of the passenger seat and onto the ground where he began attacking him before ultimately stabbing him in the back, narrowly missing his heart.
Doar’s father told the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that the victim was rushed to the hospital where he underwent a successful surgery, and now faces a long recovery. According to police, Baker was arrested on Sunday night and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
The Austin Police Department’s Hate Crimes Review Committee determined that the attack was “bias-motivated” on Wednesday, according to a press release. Police said the recommendation had been passed to the Travis County district attorney’s office, which will make the final decision on whether to prosecute the case as a hate crime.
The decision was celebrated by CAIR, the leading rights advocacy group for Muslims in America. In a press release, its National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said, “We welcome the swift recognition of the alleged motive for this attack and call on law enforcement authorities to bring appropriate charges in the case. Every American should be free to express their political views, wear symbols of their culture and practice their faith without fear of attack or intimidation.”
The stabbing is the latest incident of bias-related attacks on Palestinian Americans since the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israeli villages and the retaliatory Israeli military offensive on the Gaza strip. In October, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume was fatally attacked by his landlord in Illinois; in November, three college students in Vermont were shot for wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic in public, an attack which left one of them paralyzed.