NEW YORK: Police were on the hunt Tuesday for a man who set fire to a veiled British woman’s clothing in Manhattan, as the American Muslim community faces growing Islamophobia.
The attack took place late Saturday in front of a luxury boutique on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
The British woman, age 35, said she was walking when she suddenly felt her shirt sleeve on fire.
Police declined to provide further details on the attack, saying only that they were investigating a potential hate crime. On Monday, the police released images of the incident caught by surveillance cameras and asked the public to help find the suspect.
The New York branch of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, which is in touch with the victim and is providing legal help, said it could not confirm whether the suspect was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, though his victim was wearing a hijab at the time.
“It’s another (piece of) evidence that Muslims are increasingly vulnerable in this hostile political climate,” said Zainab Chaudry, a CAIR spokeswoman.
“Even in places like New York City, one of the most diverse in the US, we are seeing a spike in anti-Muslim bigotry.”
In August, an imam and his assistant were shot to death on the street near their mosque in the borough of Queens. An investigation into that incident has not yet established that it was Islamophobic.
After that attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that additional police officers would be deployed to secure mosques and the Muslim community.
Authorities would not immediately confirm the identity of Saturday’s victim. The New York Post said she was a dentist from Glasgow, Scotland.