8 Female Muslims Victims of Hate Crime

My-Thuan Tran of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Contact Mary-Kameko Shibata at [email protected]

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Eight female Muslim students were the victims of a hate crime Thursday night when three males threw water on them and screamed derogatory statements, police said.

The UC Berkeley students were stargazing from the Vista Parking Lot at the Lawrence Hall of Science when they were confronted by three white males in a black car about 10:30 p.m., said UC police Capt. Patrick Carroll.

The males sprayed the victims with water and threw water bottles at them before driving off, police said.

Almost all the women were hit with the water, said senior Dena Rifahie, one of the victims of the crime.

The passenger in the front seat covered his head with a cloth, mocking the traditional hijabs worn by some Muslim women, police said.

Rifahie said the women called a friend to take them home, but the men returned after a couple minutes, spraying the females with more water and yelling racial epithets.

"At that time they were yelling but we couldn't hear what they were saying because we were screaming so loudly," said sophomore Rosha Jones, another victim.

Jones said the only thing she could hear was the men yelling "East Oakland nigger" out the window.

"During the time, I was terrified," Rifahie said. "I was thinking they could have assaulted us. I felt very threatened."

The police searched the area, but could not locate the three males, police said.

The assailants were described as three white males between ages 20 and 25, driving a small black two-door sports car with tinted windows, Carroll said.

Rifahie and Jones said they suspected the males were drunk, but police did not verify this.

UC police classified the incident as a hate crime because of the racial nature of the incident.

"I wasn't sure if it was a hate crime or a crime against women or it happened because we were Muslim women," Rifahie said. "It just seemed like, why would they pick us?"

The incident led Chancellor Robert Berdahl to call a special meeting with incoming Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and the Chancellor's Task Force on Hate and Bias, which was created last fall to address hate crimes.

"Acts of hate in whatever form they occur and to whomever they are directed cannot be tolerated on this campus," Berdahl said in a statement. "As a caring and supportive community we must, at all times, stand together against deplorable acts of hate and intolerance."

Rifahie and Jones said this is the first time they have been physically confronted in Berkeley, but that verbal racial remarks are common on campus.

"I hope this incident raises awareness about safety on campus," Jones said. "I hope this never happens to anyone else."

Eleven bias-motivated crimes, including crimes involving race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity, occurred on campus in 2003, according to UC police.

"It's horrifying to know that this continues to happen at UC Berkeley," said Camille Pannu, a student on the task force. "This isn't the first time it's happened. It's unfortunate that it's not usually as high-profile."

Anyone with information about the crime can contact UCPD at 642-0472 or 642-6760 or the Berkeley Police Department at 981-5900.


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