Calif. Muslim teen sues over alleged hate attack

Reuters, Apr. 23, 2003
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N23289915.htm

LOS ANGELES, April 23 (Reuters) – A Muslim teenager who was severely beaten in what he called a skinhead attack sued four of his alleged attackers and their parents on Wednesday for civil rights violations in California state court.

Rashid Alam, 19, needed reconstructive surgery to rebuild his shattered jaw, nose and cheekbones after he was beaten unconscious by a gang of boys with bats and golf clubs on Feb. 23 in a Yorba Linda, California park.

Alam told Reuters that he had never met his attackers, including one who yelled out racial epithets and white power slogans as he stomped on Alam’s head. Police in nearby Brea investigated the incident and turned evidence over to the Orange County District Attorney for a decision on whether charges would be filed.

District Attorney’s Office spokesman Michelle Imard said no charges have been filed and the case is still under investigation. She said a decision on whether to file charges will be made within two weeks.

Alam said he hopes law enforcement officials take the case seriously. “I think it’s important that they get some (jail) time or people are going to think it’s OK to do something like this,” he said. “I’m a lot more shy now and I get a lot more jumpy if I hear a loud noise. I can’t sleep well at night.”

His father, Ahmad Alam, who publishes an Arab-American newspaper, said his son has always been teased about his name and Lebanese ancestry, but the attack took the harassment to a new level. “I think all the things that have been happening over the last three years — Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq — there are a lot of sick people … who think everybody who is Arab is bad like Saddam,” Ahmad Alam said, referring to the ousted Iraqi leader.

The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court asks a judge to hold the four teen-age defendants and their parents liable for his medical bills and pain and suffering in the attack.

Alam’s attorney, Federico Castelan Sayre, told reporters that he hopes the civil action spurs the district attorney to file charges, and said he plans to add at least one more defendant to the case.

“These five (defendants) have been identified multiple times by various witnesses,” he said. The case is being closely watched by Arab-American groups.

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