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American faces jail for pulling woman's headscarf

Muslim woman faces hate over Fort Hood shooting

An American woman has been charged with a hate crime after she verbally attacked and tugged at the hijab, or headscarf, of a Muslim woman following the Fort Hood murders, press reports said.

Two days after the Fort Hood shooting, Valerie Kenney approached U.S.-born Amal Abusumayah at a grocery store and shouted, "the guy that did the Texas shooting, he wasn't American, and he was from the Middle East,"referring to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, a U.S. citizen born in Virginia.

Although Abusumayah ignored her, Kenney, from Illinois, pulled her hijab, prompting Abusumayah to call the police, who arrested Kenney within minutes and charged her with a hate crime.

Kenney is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 3 and if convicted she faces three years in prison and a $25,000 fine for her rant.

Usually after incidents like Fort Hood, there tends to be a spike in hate crimes. Current events cause people to act out in bigotry

Christina Abraham, civil rights director

Too severe?

Prosecutors have become increasingly severe in punishing even the minor of hate crimes. But some argue that the punishment may be too severe.

"Look, if Kenney did what she's accused of doing, it was a nasty thing to do, and it's certainly a Stupid Crime," said Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper. "But jail time? How about an apology, forgiveness, some kind of community service and everybody moves on?"

Last September, the Pew Research Center reported that Americans believe U.S. Muslims face more discrimination than any other major religious group.

But their beliefs may not be warranted as the center also found that although incidents against Muslims spiked after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they also soon dropped back down. In 2007, out of 1,477 religiously-based crimes, only nine percent were aimed at Muslims.

Look, if Kenney did what she's accused of doing, it was a nasty thing to do, and it's certainly a Stupid Crime.But jail time? How about an apology, forgiveness, some kind of community service and everybody moves on?

Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper

No tolerance for hate crimes

But for many Muslims there is still reason to worry.

Christina Abraham, the civil rights director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said that headscarf incident in Tinley Park is "exactly the type of thing we worried about happening."

"Usually after incidents like Fort Hood, there tends to be a spike in hate crimes. Current events cause people to act out in bigotry," she added.

Police Chief Michael O'Connell added that "hate crimes such as the one Kenney is charged with attack the dignity of people because of their religious beliefs, race or sexual orientation, and we don't tolerate that here."

Hate crimes such as the one Kenney is charged with attack the dignity of people because of their religious beliefs, race or sexual orientation, and we don't tolerate that here

Police Chief Michael O Connell