Woman Charged With Hate Crime in Scarf-Pulling Incident

Kim Janssen and Joel Hood, Chicago Tribune, November 18, 2009

A suburban Chicago woman has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly yanking the head scarf of a Muslim woman in Tinley Park two days after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.

Valerie Kenney, 54, a bank teller from Tinley Park, appeared at the Bridgeview Courthouse today and was released on $5,000 bail. If convicted of the felony, Kenney faces up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. She is due back in court Dec. 3.

“I think (a charge of hate crime) sends the appropriate message that these kinds of race-based lash-outs are unacceptable,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Every time something like (the Fort Hood shootings) happens, the Muslim community prepares for a backlash.”

Amal Abusumayah, 28, told police she was shopping at a Tinley Park grocery store Nov. 7 when a middle-age woman passed her in the aisle and made a loud reference to the killings at Fort Hood.

“She said, ‘The man that did that shooting in Texas was from the Middle East,’ in a really loud and angry voice,” Abusumayah told the Tribune last week. Minutes later, while Abusumayah was paying for her groceries at a self-checkout, the woman approached her from behind and tugged hard on her blue and beige head scarf, she said.

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The scarf incident was the first of two apparent race-related attacks in Tinley Park in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, Police Chief Michael O’Connell said. On Nov. 8, a Muslim family found racist graffiti on the front of their home, O’Connell said. The person rang the family’s doorbell but ran off, O’Connell said.

He said 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.”

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