An Investigation into the Incident at Desert Ridge

“One must wonder, however, why the incident that is being cited as an example of a national hatred and a knee-jerk response to the movie is not on record anywhere outside of the offices of CAIR.” — Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

13 May 2006: “Take off your f**king burqas and get the f**k out of this country. We don’t want you in this country. Go home.”

These words were allegedly spoken by a middle-aged couple to a group of three young Muslim women wearing head scarves April 29, 2006 at the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Scottsdale, Arizona.

According to the young women, the couple approached them calmly and asked if they were Muslim. After answering yes, the women said the couple became enraged and verbally abused them, indicating they had just watched the film United 93.

So writes Justin Malvin, a reporter for the California Aggie online in an article dated May 10, 2006. That article was written by the reporter in response to a subsequent press release issued about the incident by the national office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, better known as CAIR. It is relevant to note that one of the three women who was one of the reported victims of this verbal abuse and harassment was Bushra Khan, the office manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter.

Khan expressed concern that “United 93” is causing citizens to become angry again and lashing out against Muslims just like the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Immediately after the alleged incident at the Desert Ridge Marketplace, Khan sent a message out to each of the 31 CAIR offices in the U.S., detailing the incident and her concerns. That, in turn spurred a CAIR Press Release about the verbal assault and the dissemination of an article titled “Why I’m Nervous About United 93,” written by Hesham A. Hassaballa, a Chicago physician and columnist for Beliefnet. Hassaballa specifically cites the incident at the Desert Ridge Mall as the primary reason for being afraid to see the movie at a public theater, citing the apparent anger against Muslims that the movie creates.

This incident of alleged malevolence also caused Dina El-Nakhal, director of communications for the Sacramento Valley CAIR office, to state that it “has affected Muslim communities across the nation.”As an investigator, I wanted to obtain more information about the incident that has begun to be the lynchpin for a heightened, national concern among Muslims that they have already and could again become victimized by the anti-Islamic sentiment created by “United 93.” Ms. Khan is a well-informed young woman who is employed by the primary and most vocal of all Muslim right’s organizations (CAIR) and most certainly does – or at least should know how to report an incident such as this, especially given the fear the incident created.

On 11 May, 2006, I contacted the police department responsible for the protection of the citizens who visit this upscale mall to obtain a copy of the police report of this incident. As Ms. Khan and her companions expressed a genuine fear for their safety, it would not only be reasonable, but prudent to request police assistance when confronted in such a manner. Further, a review of the police report would provide additional avenues of investigation into this alleged verbal assault reportedly caused by “United 93.”

It was discovered that no police report exists; despite the fear expressed by the young women. Thinking that the women at least requested assistance from the security employed by the Desert Ridge Marketplace, I contacted that office on two occasions to inquire about the incident.

“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” stated the officer answering the telephone on May 10, 2006. “If something like that did happen, we would probably know about it, most definitely,” he added. At his urging, however, I contacted the officer in charge on the following day to see if any report of the incident was on file.

“We have no record of the incident. No one from our security detail responded to any complaint as you described,” he stated. “I can’t say that it didn’t happen, but if it did, we were never notified or called for assistance,” added the officer in charge.

In summary, it appears that the incident of verbal abuse that allegedly took place on or about April 29, 2006 was not reported to anyone outside of the CAIR organization despite the level of fear the victims expressed and the concern this incident has caused on a national level. My investigation failed to find any independent corroborating evidence that the verbal assault alleged by these three young Muslim women, one who is a CAIR employee, occurred in the manner in which it has been publicly reported. Although it might well have taken place as described, my investigation found no police report, no incident report on file with mall security, and no independent confirmation of this incident of verbal assault that is causing such a panic within the Muslim community.

To echo the words of the mall security officer, “I can’t say that it didn’t happen.” If it took place in the manner described, it is a shameful act that sullies the intent of the movie “United 93” and the legacy of the heroic actions of the passengers of that flight. One must wonder, however, why the incident that is being cited as an example of a national hatred and a knee-jerk response to the movie is not on record anywhere outside of the offices of CAIR.