In 2014, Aml Elsokary was praised for her heroism, after she reportedly rushed into a burning building to help save an elderly woman and a little girl.
This month, Elsokary – a Muslim woman and New York City police officer – became a victim, targeted by a man who allegedly called her “ISIS” and threatened to slit her throat, New York media outlets reported.
Christopher Nelson, 36, was taken into custody on Sunday in connection with the alleged altercation, which occurred over the weekend, authorities say. Nelson has been arrested on charges of aggravated harassment and menacing as a hate crime.
The charges stem from an encounter on Saturday evening, according to police, who said officers responded to a call about an assault in progress. When they arrived at the scene, police were told that a man threatened to slit an off-duty officer’s throat during a dispute involving her son.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday addressed the alleged incident at a news conference about crime statistics, saying he was “sick to my stomach” when he heard that a police officer had faced threats because of her religion.
“Now, it makes no difference to me whether she was off duty or on duty at the time. She serves this city,” de Blasio said. “She is an example of everything we would want from our fellow citizens – a commitment to others, a commitment to service, a willingness to do something greater than herself. And what does she get for it? Threats to her life and bigotry. Taunts. We can’t allow this. It’s unacceptable in this city, it’s unacceptable in this nation.”
Elsokary appeared at the news conference alongside de Blasio, who said that he wanted to ensure that those who read about the incident or saw it on televised broadcasts could put a real face to the story.
“Think of what we value in this city and this nation,” he said. “We value people who put on a uniform and protect us. We value people who have a faith and live it out. And she has done all those things, and it’s absolutely unacceptable that she or anyone would be treated with hatred or bigotry.”
De Blasio also noted that the suspected assailant allegedly yelled “go back to your country” at Elsokary and her son during the attack.
“Well, this is Officer Elsokary’s country,” he said. “She is an American, she is a New Yorker. She’s already at home. And we cannot allow this kind of hatred and bias to spread. We have to stop it every single time.”
De Blasio also cited a 2014 incident in which Elsokary assisted during a blaze. That fire and Elsokary’s heroics are detailed in a New York Daily News report, which states that she was on patrol with a sergeant when they heard a police call about a fire.
While the pair were working at the scene, Elsokary heard a baby cry, so she rushed up. She discovered a woman and a 1-year-old, whom she helped escape the two-story building, the newspaper reported.
“I became a police officer to show the positive side of a New Yorker, a Muslim woman that can do the job, that is non-biased, that I help everybody no matter what’s your religion, what’s your faith, what do you in New York,” Elsokary said at the news conference. “I’m born and raised here. And I’m here to protect you, and I know that my department and my city is here to protect me.”
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Sunday condemned the alleged attack in a Facebook post, in which CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher called on President-elect Donald Trump to “forcefully and repeatedly address the ugly hatred growing rampant through-out our nation.”
Since Trump’s victory, a number of charged incidents have been reported across the country, including some that involve Muslims.
Last month, a Muslim teacher in Georgia said a note was left in her classroom telling her that her “headscarf isn’t allowed anymore.” The anonymous note instructed her to “tie” the scarf around her neck and “hang yourself with it.”
And at the University of Michigan, a female student was approached by a man who threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t take off her hijab, or head covering. The student complied, police said.
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired last month, Trump said he was “so saddened to hear” that people were harassing others in his name. “And I say, ‘Stop it,'” the president-elect said. “If it – if it helps, I will say this, and I will say it right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.'”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Sarah Larimer