The FBI and Pittsburgh police are investigating the Thanksgiving Day shooting where a passenger opened gunfire on a Muslim taxi driver after allegedly asking him about his ethnicity, religious background and the Islamic State.
The victim, a 38-year-old Moroccan immigrant, had picked the passenger from outside a casino, and although it started out just like any other cab ride, it ended with a bullet wound in the upper back of the driver, who is currently recovering the hospital.
In the wake of rising incidents of anti-Muslim crimes following the tragic Paris attacks, both the victim and the leaders of Council on American-Islamic Relations — the biggest Muslim liberties and advocacy group in the United States — are describing the devastating incident as an apparent hate crime.
“He started the conversation and began to ask questions like, ‘You seem to be like a Pakistani guy. Are you from Pakistan?’” the driver, who asked to remain anonymous for the fear of his safety, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview. “And I said, ‘No, I’m from Morocco. But I’m an American guy.'”
As the Post-Gazette reports, the driver moved to Pittsburgh from Morocco five years ago and is only three months away from becoming an American citizen.
“Then he continued the conversation,” the 38-year-old recalled. “He began to speak about ISIS killing people. I told him ‘Actually, I’m against ISIS. I don’t like them.’ I even told him that they are killing innocent people. I noticed that he changed his tone and he began to satirize Muhammad, my prophet, and began to shift to his personal life. He mentioned that he has two kids and was in prison for some time.”
At a time when Anti-Muslim sentiments are running high, the conversation between the cabbie and the unidentified man does not seem too surprising. However, things took a turn for worse, when they reached the man’s house in Hazelwood area and he asked the driver to wait because he had left his wallet inside.
“I waited for just five minutes, I think, and I noticed that he came out of the house carrying a rifle in his hand,” the victim explained. “I noticed him coming toward me. I didn’t hesitate. I [made] a fast decision to leave and drove my taxi away because I felt he was going to do something, there is danger he would shoot me or something. I felt like he had the intention to kill me.”
The man fired multiple gunshots at the cab, blasting out the rear window and shooting the driver in the back. Luckily, the driver was able to drive several blocks before pulling over and flagging down another motorist to ask for help.
“Detectives are talking to a couple witnesses and they’re starting to gather information to put a timeline together,” said City Councilman Corey O’Connor. “There are all kinds of details that have to be looked into. They have to look at the evidence and any videos that may exist.”
As of yet, no arrests have been made. However, the victim who still has a bullet lodged between his shoulder blades says he forgave his attacker.
“In our religion, Islam, we forgive, even in such conditions,” the driver added. “I learned this from our prophet Muhammad. We don’t take revenge. I could forgive this, but I still want my rights.”
Meanwhile, CAIR said in a statement that the organization attributes the growing incidents of “Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims” to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris at the hands of Islamic extremists and the “anti-Muslim rhetoric and falsehoods being espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.”