US man charged with attacking Muslim airline worker
NEW YORK: A US man has been charged with attacking a Muslim airline employee in New York, allegedly unleashing a tirade of abuse, kicking her and threatening that President Donald Trump would “get rid of all of you.”
The 57-year-old man from Massachusetts is accused of unleashing an expletive-laden rant against the Delta worker at a business class lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday, kicking her in the leg and chair after getting off a flight from the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Rabeeya Khan, who wears a head scarf, was sitting in her office when Robin Rhodes, waiting for a connecting flight, threatened her and punched the door, hitting the back of Khan’s chair, prosecutors said.
When Khan allegedly asked what she had done, Rhodes replied: “You did nothing” before allegedly kicking her in the leg.
When Khan tried to move away, Rhodes kicked the door, stepped into the office and blocked her from leaving, prosecutors said.
After someone intervened, she ran to the front desk, where Rhodes allegedly followed and imitated a Muslim praying, embarking on another expletive-laden rant against Islam and the so-called Islamic State extremist group, they added.
“Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens,” Rhodes allegedly told her.
At the time of his arrest, Rhodes allegedly told police: “I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head.”
He appeared in court Thursday on a string of charges, including multiple hate crime offenses, assault and aggravated harassment, is scheduled to return to court on February 8, a prosecution official told AFP.
He faces up to four years in prison if found guilty. Bail was set at $30,000 or his release on a $50,000 bond.
“The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society,” said Queens district attorney Richard Brown.
“Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice,” he added.
Advocacy groups have recorded an explosion in hate crimes since Trump won the presidential election last November.
On Wednesday evening, more than a thousand people demonstrated in New York against his plans to build a border on the border with Mexico and reported intention to halt visas for travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
John F. Kennedy International Airport is New York’s flagship airport, processing more than 53 million passengers in 2014 and located in Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in the United States.