An assault in Lincoln of a Muslim woman, being investigated as a hate crime, brought the ire this week of at least three Nebraska senators — Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, and Omaha Sens. Ernie Chambers and Megan Hunt.
Hunt was one who took time to speak about the Wednesday assault of the 17-year-old woman, walking near South Coddington Avenue and West A Street.
Hunt, whose legislative aide is Muslim and speaks Arabic, called the woman's family Friday and spoke to family members at length with her aide's help, she said.
The woman's sister wrote a letter following the conversation, and Hunt read it on the floor just before the Legislature adjourned Friday.
The Journal Star is not naming the sister in order not to reveal the victim.
The sister said the family would like to say many things, but would summarize it like this:
"What happened to my sister was disgusting," she said, "and she did not deserve this. She is one of the most innocent people we have ever known and also one of the most hospitable, and yes, she is a Muslim."
The assault occurred only a few days before the young woman's graduation from high school, her sister said, and the motivation behind her physical assault were many things. Religious and ethnic discrimination were a couple of those motivations, she said.
"The capacity for a hateful person to attack an innocent young woman baffles us beyond comprehension," the sister said.
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It implies that hatred and violence exist within Lincoln's and Nebraska's communities, she said.
"This is not only detrimental to victims of discrimination and assault, but also to the community, because it generates fear," she said. "For this reason, we hope that this issue and others alike are not minimized."
Muslims are celebrating the month of Ramadan.
When the young woman was attacked, police said, the attackers made derogatory comments and threats before knocking her to the ground and kicking her. She sustained cuts to her forearms and both sides of her face, as well as bruising to her lower leg. She later sought treatment at a local hospital.
The two white men who attacked her have not been identified.
After reading the letter to senators, Hunt said there is a serious urgency to deal with the power of Americans' imagination and rein back the paranoia and anxiety that leads to violence against the Muslim community.
When white Americans commit crimes, other white people do not have to answer for those crimes, she said. But there are other groups of people who are marginalized and made to answer for their whole religion or ethnicity.
Hunt said she would like to have Muslim colleagues in the Legislature, and see the first Muslim senator in Nebraska.
"But we know that is less likely to happen unless we have an overall more tolerant and more understanding culture here in the United States," Hunt said.