Woman Targeted by Man at Coffee Shop for Wearing Niqab

The harassment, captured on video that was shared on social media, coincides with what researchers and Muslim-American advocates say has been a spike in such cases across the country

A woman wearing a traditional niqab and targeted in a racist rant by a man in line at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafe in Riverside, California, confronted him with the help of another customer and a coffee shop employee who came to her defense, video shows. 

The harassment, captured on video that was shared on social media Saturday, coincides with what researchers and Muslim-American advocates say has been a spike in such cases across the country.

During the incident, the man is shown on video asking, "Is this Halloween or something?" 

"Why would you say that? What's wrong with me?" the woman responds. "Do you know I'm a Muslim?" 

The man indicates that he does and says, "I don't like that." 

"I don't like your religion because it says to kill me, and I don't want to be killed by you. How's that?" he adds.

"You are committing hate speech," the woman says.

A third person, customer Barry Landau, can be heard defending the woman in the video.

"Get out of here! [Expletive] racist," Landau said. "I said get out of here! Why are you doing this to her?"

The two men then exchanged insults. Landau told NBC4 a woman joined the man in yelling at the woman in the niqab, although that was not caught on video.

"I have nothing against anyone, all I ask is people live and let live," Landau said in recalling the encounter. "The problem is these people were attacking essentially a girl who did nothing, simply because she was wearing her religion."

Moments after Landau's confrontation, the video cuts back to the original man not being served. A woman behind the counter at the cafe, who identifies herself as the supervisor on duty, says the man will not be served, "Because he is disrupting a public place and being very racist."

The woman in the niqab can be heard in the video thanking the supervisor.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf released a statement saying the company "is fully committed to ensuring the wellness and safety of its customers, team members and business. We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination of any kind, and have the right to refuse service to any person who makes customers or team members feel endangered in any way." 

Reports of hate crimes — such as assault, intimidation and vandalism — against Muslims significantly increased between November 2016 and November 2017, according to an analysis by a University of Illinois at Chicago professor with the nonprofit South Asian Americans Leading Together.

The analysis showed a 46 percent increase in hate violence motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. At least 300 incidents between the time frame were documented, NBC News reported. 

A separate report by The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) released last month said that non-violent, anti-Muslim harassment was the top category of bias cases it tracked in 2017, making up 14 percent.

"[President] Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, both prior to and during the course of his presidency, emboldened those who sought to express their anti-Muslim bias and provided a veneer of legitimacy to bigotry in the public sphere," the group said in its 2018 Civil Rights Report. 

CAIR told NBC4 that the woman in the niqab contacted their offices Monday evening. She has been in touch with their lawyer.

As of Tuesday morning, video of the Riverside encounter posted on the verified Twitter account of CJ Werleman, who identifies himself as a columnist for the Middle East Eye and The New Arab, had been viewed over 1.79 million times.

The entire video is available here.

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