A Palestinian woman said she was assaulted and aggressively harassed while walking with her infant daughter and friend near Malden Center late Wednesday morning, in an apparent hate crime motivated by Monday's attack at the Boston Marathon.
Malden resident Heba Abolaban said she and her friend, both wearing hijabs, were walking with their children on Commercial Street when a man forcefully punched her left shoulder and began shouting at them.
“He was screaming 'F___ you Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions! F___ you!'” Abolaban remembered. “Oh my lord, I was extremely shocked.”
She said the man – described as a white male in his thirties wearing dark sunglasses – kept shouting and walking toward her as she backed away.
“I did not say anything to him,” she said. “Not even that we aren't terrorists...he was so aggressive.”
After about two minutes, Abolaban said the man continued his brisk walk toward Malden Center. Shaken, Abolaban called her husband in tears, and then 911.
“The police came and were so kind and helpful,” she said, though no suspects were arrested in the incident.
“I love Boston and its people”
Abolaban and her husband, Ahmad Almujahed, are doctors who came to the United States from Syria to develop their specialties.
Last year, she did her six month observership at Mass General Hospital in the Clinical Genetics Department. While she was the only woman on staff to wear the Islamic hijab, she said she never felt singled out by her peers.
“I really do love the beautiful diversity of Boston (and its) people,” she said. “What happened to me yesterday saddened me a lot.”
Abolaban described Islam as a “religion of peace,” noting she spent the day before the attack handing out hot meals with her mosque.
“Our [Mosque] cooked food for the homeless regardless of their religion, ethnicity or race,” she said.
“Even if a Muslim man was the one behind the Boston Marathon blasts, he does not represent our beautiful and peaceful religion,” she later added.
Mayor: City will “not tolerate this type of behavior.”
She noted that she also appreciated a phone call from Mayor Gary Christenson, who reached out to the family after the police report was filed.
“I am simply outraged that such an act has occurred in Malden, a community that takes pride in its diversity and embraces people of all cultures and backgrounds,” Christenson wrote in an e-mail when asked for comment. “I have been in contact with Heba and am relieved that she and her child were not seriously injured.
“Police Chief Kevin Molis and members of his department responded quickly and are diligently proceeding with the investigation to find who was responsible for this heinous act.
“In the meantime, I have assured Heba and her family that Malden does not tolerate this type of behavior and that the acts of one despicable individual will not stop our community from moving forward together.”