When two Muslim teens from a Brooklyn mosque said that they had been beaten because of their religious beliefs, New Yorkers and Americans of all stripes were outraged.
However, it turns out that police revealed a different motive for the attack. They’re not investigating it as a hate crime because they say that the teens were hitting on a woman inside a car and her boyfriend, enraged by the harassment, attacked the 16-year-olds.
According to WABC-TV, the incident happened in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park. As the teens described it, they had just left prayer services at the Muslim Community Center when they started looking at a car.
The attacker then stepped out from behind the car and said, “you f***** terrorists” and “You Muslims are the cause of all the problems in the world” while kicking and beating the teens.
Police, however, discovered something different.
According to the New York Daily News, the two teenagers had been hitting on a woman in a parked car for over an hour. While that was bad enough, their actions went above sexual harassment. They had attempted to open her car door and poked their head inside the window.
When her boyfriend came out, one thing led to another and … well, you can guess the rest. One of the teens suffered a concussion, bruises and cuts. Another suffered a black eye. Police are aware of who the perpetrator is, but are still searching for the man.
You can see surveillance video of the incident here:
“The hate crimes unit investigated it and determined that this incident is not a hate crime,” NYPD spokesman Sgt. Brendan Ryan said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, somewhat predictably, disagreed.
“Our position is, let’s keep all possibilities open, at least until the assailant is arrested and questioned,” Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR’s New York chapter, told the Daily News.
We obviously don’t condone what this man did. In spite of the inappropriate and intimidating behavior the Muslim teenagers engaged in, his actions were appalling and he should be charged to the fullest extent of the law.
That said, the media was more than willing, in the early part of the investigation, to reflexively refer to this as a hate crime. For that matter, the two victims in this case felt compelled to treat it as such, even though it quickly became apparent that their actions had contributed to the attack.
This isn’t the first case we’ve seen like this, either. When accusations of hate crimes are made, the media should keep a healthy dose of skepticism on hand.
And as readers, we need to remember that accusations are printed on page one; retractions on page 17.
Do you think the media should be more careful about reporting alleged hate crimes? Please share this story on Twitter and Facebook and let us know.