Pittsburgh Somali Bantu Man Beaten, Community Worried About Harassment Of Refugees

Feb 23, 2017

A member of the Somali Bantu community in Pittsburgh is in critical condition after being severely beaten early Tuesday morning. 

The victim is a cab driver who was responding to a call in Beltzhoover.

Many members of the Muslim and refugee community said they're concerned it may have been a hate crime. Pittsburgh Police are investigating, but said there is no evidence of bigotry.

Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff said it’s possible the Somali man was beaten as the result of a robbery.

The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh’s Executive Director Wasiullah Mohamed said regardless of if this case is deemed a hate crime, harassment of Muslims and refugees in the city is prevalent.

“And this is not a single incident,” he said. “This is a continuation of a trend that’s happening around the country, around the state, and now we know it’s happening down the street. People are being attacked, minorities as well as Muslim community members, Somali community members, this is something that’s happening regularly.”

Zohra Lasania, communications coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Pittsburgh has seen a number of school bullying cases towards refugee children lately. Somali community member Fatuma Muya said that presents a particular challenge.

“All those families, you see the Somali Bantus, a lot of the parents they don’t speak English," Muya said. “They cannot defend themselves or defend their children when something like that happens.”

Mohamed said as an Indian Muslim growing up post 9/11, he saw a lot of similar harassment.

“We have to do what we can to learn from the mistakes of the past and make sure that this generation of kids doesn’t grow up with that repeatedly being harassed for being Muslim or African or refugee,” he said.

The Pittsburgh Police are asking the public to share any information they have about Tuesday’s beating in Beltzhoover.