A Muslim taxi driver in the US state of Pennsylvania has been shot and wounded in what appears to be a hate crime.
The 38-year-old Moroccan immigrant was shot in the back during the Thanksgiving holiday by his passenger, who talked about the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group and insulted the Prophet Muhammad before opening fire, media reported on Monday.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on the FBI and the Department of Justice to join the investigation of the shooting.
The driver, who requested anonymity, said after the man got into his cab, he “started the conversation and began to ask questions like, ‘You seem to be like a Pakistani guy. Are you from Pakistan?’”
“He began to speak about ISIS killing people. I told him ‘Actually, I’m against ISIS. I don’t like them.’ I even told him that they are killing innocent people. I noticed that he changed his tone and he began to satirize Muhammad, my prophet, and began to shift to his personal life. He mentioned that he has two kids and was in prison for some time,” the driver said.
The driver said that the assailant asked him to wait when they arrived at his house in Hazelwood, saying he had left his wallet inside.
After five minutes, the man came out “carrying a rifle in his hand,” the driver said. “I made a fast decision to leave and drove my taxi away because I felt he was going to do something, there was danger he would shoot me or something. I felt like he had the intention to kill me.”
The shooter fired multiple gunshots at the driver’s taxi, shattering the rear window and striking him in the back.
The Moroccan man drove several blocks, then pulled over and flagged down another driver for help.
He has been in hospital ever since, but the bullet is still lodged between his shoulder blades.
“In our religion, Islam, we forgive, even in such conditions,” the driver told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I learned this from our prophet Muhammad. We don’t take revenge. I could forgive this, but I still want my rights.”
Members of Pittsburgh’s Muslim community are angry with investigators, who they believe are hesitant to describe the shooting as a hate crime.
“Since the Paris attack, we’ve been suffering,” said one woman, a member of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh who also requested anonymity. “Personally, we experience a lot of humiliation, a lot of people giving you the finger on the streets and calling you names. But when it comes to the point of shooting, this is extreme. This has to stop.”
Police said the investigation is ongoing, but added that there have been no arrests so far.
Observers say hate-crime incidents against Muslims are also being fueled by divisive rhetoric by US politicians and presidential candidates.