Members of Philadelphia's Muslim community represented by the Majlis Ash-Shura were joined by District Attorney Seth Williams and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. today to announce a $20,000 reward for anyone who commits a crime while disguised in Muslim women's clothing, a disturbing trend which they say is on the rise.
"There's been a rash of men – actually, I wouldn't call them men – but males who dress up like Muslim women as a disguise to commit horrible, violent crimes like murder, robbery and assault," chairman Imam Isa Abdulmateen said. "As Muslim men, we are taught to protect our women."
"It definitely causes women to be in danger," Aliya Khabir said of some recent high-profile crimes in which suspects have worn a flowing robe called an abaya and a face-covering veil, or niqab. "This is our traditional garb – when people commit murders and rob banks in that garb, it leads to more stereotyping and hate toward Muslim women and a higher likelihood of violence against the Muslim community."
"Now a Muslim
woman who enters a bank or a place of business is open to increased suspicion," Abdulmateen said. "It opens them up to overzealous vigilantes."
Jones also expressed concerns about the possibility of vigilantism, citing Florida's now-infamous Trayvon Martin case. "Like Trayvon's hoodie, this associates Muslim women with those who have ill intent," he said. "This is a growing concern because here's what could happen, that some woman going into a bank and conducting her daily transactions could be assaulted wrongfully."
The Majlis Ash-Shura, a governing body that oversees Muslims' quality of life in the Delaware Valley, raised the money and approached Jones with the reward suggestion after an Upper Darby homicide last week whose alleged perpetrator wore Muslim clothing. "We had been talking about it for a while, but that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Abdulmateen said.
"I got a call on a Sunday, first thing in the morning, and they were so distraught about the situation with the barber on 69th Street," Jones said. "They cited a number of incidents in which disguises had been used – including one in which a police officer was killed – and said, 'Enough is enough. We need to get the District Attorney involved.'"
"To have a person impersonating – I think they're impersonating Muslims because I don't think a Muslim would do anything like that – and to also impersonate a woman, they need to be taught a lesson," said Alia Walker, chairwoman of the Majlis Ash-Shura's Women's Committee. "You cannot endanger and put people in jeopardy because of your own selfish wants."
"It's unconscionable – it's criminal," she said. "We need to show not only our community, but the citizens of Philadelphia that we don't condone this behavior and will prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law."