New York police say they are investigating a possible “bias incident” in which a father alleges he and his 18-month-old son were attacked in Brooklyn on Monday and erroneously accused of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Ashish Prashar, 40, told CNN he was at a Brooklyn basketball court with his son on Monday when a woman charged at the pair and hurled slurs at them, threw her coffee at him and eventually hit him.
Prashar, who said he was wearing a traditional Arab scarf known as a keffiyeh, said the woman became upset after his toddler started to interact with her young son in what Prashar believed to be a lighthearted moment between the children.
Prashar said he reached for his phone to record the screaming woman, hoping that the camera would force her to calm down. But the woman became violent upon seeing the camera, he said.
“My whole goal was to protect my son,” Prashar said. “There was disbelief in the beginning when she called me a terrorist. But then it got worse, and it got more serious. I needed to protect my son and keep him at a safe distance.”
In video that Prashar captured on his cell phone, the woman is seen throwing her phone at Prashar. He said that was moments before she threw a cup of hot coffee at him and his son.
“She threw her hot coffee in my face,” Prashar said. “I had just put my son down. It would have hit him in the face. I was mind blown.”
A witness went to check on Prashar, prompting the woman to grab her child and leave, he said.
Prashar’s son was unharmed, but Pashar said he received scrapes and bruises from the woman’s open-hand strikes and attempts to rip his phone away while he recorded.
The New York Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible bias incident but has not taken a suspect into custody, a spokesperson said.
The incident comes as Muslims, Palestinians and Jews in the US say they are becoming increasingly fearful of hate-motivated attacks as war between Israel and Hamas rages in the Middle East. Israel declared a military offensive against Hamas after the militant group’s surprise attack on the country on October 7, which left 1,400 people dead. Since then, Israeli attacks have killed more than 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, drawing from sources in the Hamas-controlled territory.
Prashar said he went to police to report the incident knowing he had what a lot of victims don’t – video evidence of the alleged attack.
“I want it to stop,” Prashar said. “I don’t want a child to be stabbed 23 times in Illinois. I don’t want my child nearly scolded by hot coffee and I don’t want this to happen to another human being. I see those kids in Gaza and I see my child.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the incident and called it emblematic of post-9/11 hysteria.
“This attack on a father with his young son is absolutely despicable and we urge law enforcement authorities to be swift and thorough in investigating and apprehending a suspect,” Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR’s New York chapter, said. “These bigoted attacks must stop.”
The NYPD defines a bias incident as an offense that is “motivated in whole or substantial part by a person’s, a group’s or a place’s identification with a particular race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, ancestry, national origin, or sexual orientation.”
The total number of bias incidents investigated by the department’s hate crimes task force in October (101) was 124% higher than the number investigated in the same month last year (45), according to the NYPD. Last month’s count includes 69 investigations of potential antisemitic crimes and eight potential anti-Muslim ones
Nationally, CAIR says it has received 1,283 complaints of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias since Hamas raided Israel on October 7 - a 216% increase compared to the same time last year.
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