JERSEY CITY — Five Muslim teens were walking to Newport Mall after school on Tuesday afternoon when they were berated by a man because of their religion.
In a snippet of the incident that was caught on camera, the man, who has not been identified, tells the 18-year-old Dickinson High School students they are “traitors to the country” because they are Muslim.
Fatima Khan, who posted the video on Twitter, said she and her four friends — Ibtissam Jaouad, Aniza Nasir, Dolma Tsering, and Yahaira Osorio — were approached by the man on Seventh Street in Downtown Jersey City and he began yelling.
At first the girls thought he was trying to make a joke, but they soon realized the man was attacking them for their religion. Nasir was wearing a hijab when the man began his hate-filled tirade and that’s when Khan begins recording.
“I’m allowed to talk to streets … people on the streets,” the man says. “It’s important … your s****y people should go …”
In the video the man is interrupted by one of the teens who yells “what do you mean ‘your s****y people?’ She was born here, first of all, and I came here and I am an American citizen.”
The girls, audibly upset at this point, ask the man where he’s from when he says “you are traitors to the country.” Khan tells her friends to keep walking and to ignore him, while he continues to talk to the girls about “your s****y country.”
When reached by phone, the girls said they were surprised by the hate-filled rhetoric in Jersey City, but also acknowledged how it’s happening all across the country. The man also allegedly called them “evil” and “witches.”
“I don’t usually go through all that around here, especially since it’s so diverse,” Nasir said.
Mike McNamara, a Downtown resident, said the man in the video is homeless and in need a psychological help and little things on any given day can tick him off.
The incident occurred near the East District Police Precinct. The students said they went to tell police about the encounter, but were told not much could be done since they did not know where the man in the video went.
As they continued to the mall, the girls said they were stopped by another man who said the person who verbally assaulted them continued his rant even after the girls left. The second man apologized that the girls were put into that type of situation.
The teens hope that sharing their story will shed light on the seriousness of racism, prejudice and hate crimes.
A city spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment on the video. Reached by phone, Downtown Councilman James Solomon called the video “disgusting.”
“There is no place for this in Jersey City or America,” he said.
A study released earlier this year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found hate crimes against Muslims rose 15 percent in 2017.The advocacy group blamed President Donald Trump’s restrictions on immigration from Muslim-majority countries as the reason for more hate crimes.