A Muslim couple dressed in a thobe and hijab were booted from an American mall during their holiday shopping trip and subsequently labeled terrorists online thanks to America’s escalating anti-Muslim bigotry.
Alan Crawford and Daphne Ridenour were out shopping at Central Mall in Fort Smith, Arkansas when mall security approached the couple and escorted them out, according to KFSM-TV.
"I had two unknown subjects come up to me and advise me that a male subject wearing a thobe was video recording everyone in the mall and he was video-taping the entrances of several stores," Officer Anthony Cox wrote in the police report.
According to mall policy, recording people inside the mall is against the rules.
Images of the couple and their son being removed from the facility were posted on Facebook and shared thousands of times with captions reading “terrorist threat on the mall" and "Muslims have been scoping the layout of the mall."
Crawford asserts he only recorded audio not video inside the mall, although he mentioned he did not see a sign saying video recording wasn’t allowed.
“I audio recorded the police officer and held my camera in the manner that would lead him to believe that I did video tape while he screamed at me and told me that 'I can confiscate your phone'. You can't confiscate my phone for mall law. I violated mall law, OK? Which wasn't even clearly posted," he said.
The family lives in Muldrow, Oklahoma, a town across from Fort Smith.
Muldrow is the hometown of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, a US Special Forces member who was killed fighting Daesh in October. Around the time the memorial service was held, Crawford, who also served in the military, noticed flyers circulating in the area of him and his wife identified as terrorists. The document was leaked from the Muldrow Police Department.
"It broke my heart. It absolutely destroyed me. I was in the infantry. The infantry is a brotherhood. The infantry is a bond that is unbreakable. Death before dishonor. We'll never lose each other. We will never leave each other," Crawford said. "That's how our country rolls. I couldn't even go to my own brothers funeral. If i had I would have been treated like a terrorist. This shouldn't be happening in America."
The document and further allegations have since been determined as invalid and not credible, but that hasn’t stopped residents from ostracizing the family and even planting small bombs in their yard.
Crawford said the Facebook posts and terrorist allegations have prompted his family to move his family elsewhere.
Islamophobia has become so immersed into America’s mainstream culture that not only are Muslims' prayers and rituals disrupted, but even everyday leisure activities are threatened with irrational anti-Muslim fears.