An off-duty Muslim MTA employee was assaulted and harassed yesterday by a man at Grand Central who allegedly called her a "terrorist." Soha Salama, 45, was pushed down a flight of stairs by a man who she says shouted the Islamophobic slurs at her. In a subsequent interview, Salama told the NY Post she had never experienced anything like this before, and blames the recent uptick in hate crimes on the election of Donald Trump.
"I think this hate is raised after the election," Salama told the Post. "During the Obama administration this hate wasn't there. It's because of the hate speeches we hear on the media. In the 20 years I live here, I didn't experience something like that. As soon as the election and Mr. Trump spreads this hate speech around, it's different now. He leads the people in the wrong direction."
The incident unfolded around 6:20 a.m. Monday morning as Salama, who was in her MTA uniform and wearing a hajib, made her way to work on the 7 train. She was confronted by the suspect while aboard the train—he allegedly poked at her MTA patch and yelled at her, "You're a terrorist and you shouldn't be working for the city."
The man followed her off the train and allegedly pushed her down a flight of stairs: "He pushed me down the stairs, but I couldn't find anyone to help me," she told the Post. "He scared me. He followed me after until I reached the police. They walked me down to where I work. I injured my knee and my ankle." She was taken to NYU Langone Hospital for treatment, while the suspect fled the scene. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
Mayor de Blasio agreed with Salama's assessment of why the hate crimes have been increasing in recent weeks: "It's not a surprise, there's been a huge uptick in hate crimes," he said Monday. "You can't have a candidate for president single out groups of Americans negatively and not have some ramifications."
This bias incident comes on the heels of several other similarly alarming ones in recent weeks: over the weekend, a Brooklyn man allegedly yelled xenophobic insults at an off-duty Muslim NYPD officer and her teenage son. Last week, three men attacked and harassed a Muslim woman, calling her a terrorist and repeatedly shouting "Donald Trump!" at her.
According to the Times, there have been 43 incidents which have been deemed possible hate crimes by the NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force since Election Day, more than double the number reported for the same period last year. There has been an overall 35 percent increase in hate crimes in NYC in 2016 to date over the same period last year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement about the recent incidents, "This is the great state of New York—we welcome people of all cultures, customs and creeds with open arms. We do not allow intolerance or fear to divide us because we know diversity is our strength and we are at our best when we stand united. I have directed the MTA, State Police and Division of Human Rights to work with local law enforcement to investigate these matters. These acts of hate will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and those responsible will be held accountable."
As for Salama, she vowed to not let the incident faze her or her children: "I’m going to be more cautious and I will love the people and keep greeting them every day,” she said. "I will [continue to] wear the hijab. I would never think about not wearing it. We are all immigrants and I’m proud to be here. I have a bachelors in law and a masters degree. I’m a very civilized person. I am raising my four lovely kids. They were all born here. We are raising our kids to be the best. We are human beings. They are human beings."