(ATLANTA, GA, 12/4/2019) – The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today thanked the Dekalb County Solicitor's Office for filing criminal charges against two men who used their pickup truck to harass and endanger a Muslim family while traveling on Highway I-85 in Atlanta one year ago.
Prosecutors filed a high and aggravated misdemeanor charge of aggressive driving against the driver, and a disorderly conduct charge against the passenger. Georgia has not passed a law recognizing bias-motivated crimes, so neither man could be charged with a hate crime.
In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
"We welcome the Dekalb County Solicitor-General Office's decision to file charges against the men responsible for this crime. We especially thank Solicitor General Donna Coleman-Striblling and community prosecutor Aletha Claire Farley for dedicating so much time and attention to this case over the past year.
"These dangerous incidents of anti-Muslim highway harassment are not particularly unique, which makes it all the more important for law enforcement to take such crimes seriously. Driving while Muslim should not put a family's life at risk."
On Nov. 24, 2018, a Georgia Muslim family was traveling on I-85 North near exit 92 in Dekalb County. The father was driving. The mother, who wears an Islamic head scarf (hijab), was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Their three children were sitting in the backseat.
The family was traveling in a center lane of the highway when a white Ford Ranger pickup truck (license plate #RHI0821) carrying two unidentified white males approached the driver's side of their car. One of the men made eye contact with the mother, and flashed obscene gestures at her, including their middle fingers.
The family then began recording the incident. A minute or so later, the driver of the pickup truck swerved his vehicle into the lane of the family's car and hit his brakes, forcing them to brake. The white male in the passenger seat of the pickup truck then flashed both middle fingers at the family, stuck out his tongue, and laughed.
The family captured part of the incident with a cell phone camera.
Shortly after publicly releasing the video and filing a police report, both CAIR-Georgia and law enforcement received a tip about the case from a member of the public. The Dekalb County Police Department then identified both suspects, separately interviewed them, and informed CAIR-Georgia of its conclusion that the men had indeed violated the law.
CAIR-Georgia then alerted the Dekalb County Solicitor General's office, and spent the past year working with its community prosecution division to ensure the filing of criminal charges.
"This incident serves as a reminder of why Georgia needs a hate crime law," said CAIR Georgia Staff Attorney Murtaza Khwaja. "Bigots who harass, threaten, or attack people based on their religious identity have a committed a hate crime, and should be charged accordingly."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
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