A Muslim woman was set on fire on a NYC street

The NYPD said the attack on a Muslim dentist visiting from Scotland was not a hate crime

Published September 13, 2016 6:30PM (EDT)

Surveillance footage of the suspect  (NYPD)
Surveillance footage of the suspect (NYPD)

Update, Sept. 16:

New York police said the attack on a Muslim woman in Manhattan was in fact not a hate crime. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force had originally investigated the incident, but dropped the case after officers found out that at least three other women were threatened with fire by the same suspect or group of suspects on the same day.

Original, Sept. 13:

A Muslim woman dressed in traditional Islamic clothing was set on fire in an incident on Sept. 10 in New York City.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the alleged attack as a potential hate crime.

The woman was identified by The New York Post as Nemariq Alhinai, a 35-year-old dentist who was visiting the U.S. from Glasgow, Scotland.

Police said Alhinai was on the street, window-shopping in midtown Manhattan, when she felt something burning on her left arm.

Alhinai put out the fire and looked over to see a man next to her holding a lighter, police said.

Surveillance footage was released showing the man as he walked away. He was wearing a black tank top and jeans.

Police said Alhinai was not injured, although the fire left a hole in her blouse.

The incident came just hours before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Authorities are investigating to see whether the alleged attack was motivated by anti-Muslim bias.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Muslim civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The New York Daily News, “I would obviously be concerned because it’s symptomatic of the overall rise in Islamophobic sentiment in our society.”

Attacks on Muslims have been increasing in frequency in the U.S. New York City has seen its own string of such incidents.

In August, a man shot and killed a Muslim cleric and his assistant in the New York City borough of Queens. Oscar Morel, 35, was charged with several counts of murder and faces up to life in prison without parole if he is convicted. Authorities said they were investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

In the month after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, hate crimes against Muslim Americans and mosques tripled in the U.S. These crimes included extreme attacks, such as arsons, shootings, assaults, vandalism and death threats.

Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry have been exploited by a growing number of American politicians. Donald Trump has campaigned for president on the promise to at least temporarily ban Muslim migration to the U.S. Other politicians have called for the U.S. government to refuse to take in Muslim refugees.

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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