Philadelphia-area Muslims are offering a $20,000 reward to find criminals cloaking their identities beneath Islamic women's clothing, saying the crooks are feeding mistrust of their faith.
Members of Majlis Ash Shura, a group representing 71 mosques and congregations in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said they have zero tolerance for the tactic, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"Whatever happened to the mask?" Imam Asim Abdul-Rashid of the Masajid of the Delaware Valley said, referring to ski masks often seen worn by bank robbers.
Officials say perpetrators have worn Muslim garb in five Philadelphia bank robberies since December. Also, Sharif Wynn, charged with an April 18 killing in an Upper Darby barber shop, allegedly wore a woman's robe as part of a robbery ruse that turned out to be a love triangle gone bad.
"These types of bizarre incidents feed into that cottage industry of Muslim bashers," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the national Council on American-Islamic Relations, said. "These types of incidents demonize Islam and American Muslims."
They also make it difficult for Muslim women to get service in banks, Hooper said.
Amara Chaudhry, civil rights director at CAIR's Philadelphia chapter, said that one community member, who went to a bank to deposit the paycheck of her son in the military, was not allowed to enter the branch before first removing her hijab, making her feel as naked as removing her blouse and bra.
"She couldn't even serve her son who is serving our country," Chaudhry said.
Islamic leaders said at a news conference Tuesday they're concerned the crimes could make Muslim women the targets of mistrust or even violence.
District Attorney Seth Williams appealed for the public's help, calling the criminals "cowards".
Jim Gold, "Philadelphia Muslims offer $20,000 reward to find criminals wearing Islamic garb" US News April 25, 2012
"Philadelphia-area Islamic group offers $20K reward in crimes by men in women's Muslim garb" Washington Post April 25, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today