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Muslim civil rights group seeks to call attention to alleged harassment of Iraqi refugee family in Dundalk

A family that settled in Baltimore County from Iraq two-and-a-half years ago has allegedly experienced a series of acts of vandalism at their home, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Zainab Chaudry, Maryland liaison for the group, said the Dundalk family has experienced threatening incidents at their apartment, and CAIR is asking Baltimore County police to hasten an inquiry. The organization also wants state and federal law enforcement agencies to get involved.

“We are calling on law enforcement to conduct a swift and thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators behind these incidents to justice and ensure this family feels safe and secure,” said Chaudry at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Chaudry said the family told CAIR representatives last week that they have been the target of sporadic catcalls, hostile shouts and other cruel acts for nearly seven months. The father said strangers sometimes knocked on his family’s door and ran away before he could catch them.

But shortly after the Islamic holiday of Ramadan began May 15, the family’s home was pelted with eggs.

“They started hurting us. They starting cussing my [wife] out when they saw her on the streets,” the father said. The most recent incident happened nine days ago when an unknown perpetrator threw a battery and a piece of metal through the family’s window, leaving shards of glass scattered across the floor, the father alleges.

CAIR has asked media outlets not to release the name of the family, for fear of further harassment.

“The way that this family is being treated is un-American,” Imam Hassan Amin, founder and executive director of the Muslim Social Services Agency, told reporters Tuesday. “They deserve to feel safe in their neighborhood, and we need law enforcement to do that.”

The family said they have filed a police report, but Baltimore County police have not been helpful. CAIR has reached out to police three times, Chaudry said.

A spokesperson for Baltimore County police did not respond to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.

The family of eight said they fled their war-torn home in Baghdad after their oldest son was shot in his shoulder by an unknown gunman. They thought moving to the United States would provide them with a greater sense of safety.

“I hope that the police can stop this because we came here to be safe, to get a good education,” said the father. “We weren’t expecting none of that stuff, so we hope that they can do something better about this incident."

The father said he has temporarily left his job delivering pizzas to protect his family. He said they barricade their door with a couch at night to prevent a break-in while they sleep.

CAIR contends that incidents of religious bias against Muslims have increased in the United States since President Donald J. Trump took office. The Washington-based organization recently released a report indicating a 17 percent increase in bias-related incidents against American Muslims between 2016 and 2017, and a 15 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes over that same time period.

Anxiety within the immigrant and refugee community has been heightened since an incident in Idaho over the weekend. Eight people were injured, and a 3-year-old girl died after they were stabbed by a 30-year-old man Saturday, Boise police said in a statement. The victims include members of Boise’s refugee community from the Middle East and East Africa.

CAIR is attempting to find a way to relocate the Dundalk family until perpetrators are apprehended, Chaudry said. Karim Amin, president of the Muslim Social Services Agency, said he would meet with a real estate agent Tuesday.

CAIR has received four to five reports in the last year from refugee families in Maryland requesting relocation after facing intimidation or harassment, Chaudry said.

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