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Islamaphobic Prejudice And CAIR

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by Daniel Pipes
August 25, 2004

In the early morning on July 9, 2004, a fire burned much of the Continental Spices Cash & Carry, a grocery store in Everett, Washington, specializing in Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern groceries. The fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damages but no injuries. On putting out the fire, police and firefighters found a gasoline can, a spray-painted obscenity against Arabs and a spray-painted white cross. Rupinder Bedi, the proprietor of a 7-Eleven next door, told the Seattle Times how he found Continental Spices' manager, Mirza Akram, 37 and a Pakistani, crying and telling him "he had been harassed by some customers earlier this summer [and that] the verbal slurs didn't stop until he threatened to call police."

Further, the Everett Herald reports,

The morning of the fire, the store manager told investigators he feared the fire had been set in retaliation for attacks on Americans in the Middle East. He claimed that the month before, two white men came to the store and became upset when they learned he had been born in Pakistan. They laft the store angry.

That was the story. On August 19, however, the police arrested Akram in his store on a federal arson warrant. He stands accused of setting fire to the store to collect insurance on the building and its contents. U.S. attorneys explained in court that mounting financial losses led Akram to stage an arson and then make it look like a hate crime.

Specifically: Akram was in the process of buying Continental Spices from the Z.A. Trading Corp. of Seattle; having already paid $52,800, he owed at least another $32,200. But gross sales at Continental Spices dropped from almost $11,000 a month in 2003 to less than $3,000 a month just prior to the fire, a decline in revenues that apparently made it impossible to make the monthly purchase payment of $640 and rent payment of $1,200.

Wrongly thinking Z.A. Trading Corp.'s insurance policy covered the store, Akram allegedly schemed for months to burn it down. (Ironically, the store was not on the policy.) On the evening of July 8. he met with an unnamed male friend (who has since turned state's evidence) at his home and told the friend how he had poured gasoline inside the store and lit incense above the gasoline, expecting the incense would ignite the gasoline.

Akram allegedly had the friend drive to the store in the early morning of the 9th to see if it was on fire. He called Akram and reported that is was not. Then, about 4 a.m. on July 9, the friend entered the store and dropped burning incense into the gasoline, causing a fire to erupt so fast that it burnt the friend's trousers. He "narrowly escaped" the building without injury.

Phone records obtained by investigators show 11 calls between Akram and his friend between midnight and 4 a.m. on the day of the fire. If convicted of arson, Akram faces up to 20 years in prison.

While Akram is presumed innocent until proven guilty, this tale points once again to (1) the need to treat claims of "hate crimes" with less than total credulity and (2) the unreliability and poor judgment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Immediately on July 10, CAIR rushed a press release out the door, "Arsonist Torches Muslim Store in Washington," calling on "local and national leaders to address the issue of growing Islamophobic prejudice following an arson attack on a Muslim-owned business in Washington State."

That mainstream organizations persist in treating CAIR as a serious "civil rights" group baffles this observer. What more must CAIR do to make them realize what it is?

September 8, 2004 update: The unnamed male friend who actually set the fire now has a name; he is Naveed Khan, a 22-year-old sailor, and the Seattle Times reports that a federal grand jury last week indicted him on charges of arson and conspiracy to commit arson. Yesterday, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested him at Naval Station Everett and transported him to the federal courthouse, where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took him into custody.

The ATF indicated that Akram offered Khan $2,000 to set fire to the Continental Spices Cash & Carry but Khan refused the money. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

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