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Stabbing of Palestinian American in Texas is considered a hate crime

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Police say the stabbing of a Palestinian American man in Austin, Texas, this week meets the definition of a hate crime. It's the latest in a series of attacks that appear to target Palestinian Americans as the war in Gaza continues to heighten tensions and safety fears for Arab and Jewish Americans alike. Luz Moreno-Lozano of member station KUT in Austin reports.

LUZ MORENO-LOZANO, BYLINE: Fighting back tears, Nizar Doar shared the story of his son, 23-year-old Zacharia Doar, who was stabbed last Sunday night near the University of Texas campus in downtown Austin. Zacharia and his friends had just attended a rally calling for a cease-fire. After the rally, Nizar says he begged his son to come home with him to Dallas, but he and his friends wanted to take in Austin's food and nightlife.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIZAR DOAR: I drive hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes and I get a terrible call saying, uncle, you have to turn back. Your son's been stabbed. The first thing that came to my mind is, I'm going to lose my son.

MORENO-LOZANO: Zacharia and his friends were in their car at a stop sign when a man riding a bike yelled racial slurs and attack them. The man, identified as 36-year-old Bert James Baker, tried to rip a free Palestine flag from their truck and then stabbed Zacharia in the chest. Baker was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Austin police on Wednesday said it is recommending the attack be prosecuted as a hate crime. Whether to do that is now up to the Travis County district attorney.

This is the latest in a series of attacks against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities across the U.S. since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent war in Gaza. In November, three college students in Vermont were shot and seriously injured while taking an evening walk. In October, a 6-year-old Muslim boy was fatally stabbed and his mother wounded by their landlord just outside of Chicago. Nizar Doar says his son is now out of the hospital and recovering at home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DOAR: I think what happened is clear as the sun today. I really call for the law enforcement to do the right investigation and determine exactly what happened. All I want is justice for my son and justice for our people in Gaza.

MORENO-LOZANO: The Council on American-Islamic relations says reports to them of anti-Muslim hate incidents are up nearly 180% over the last three months compared to the same period last year. The Anti-Defamation League says antisemitic incidents are up more than 300%.

For NPR News, I'm Luz Moreno-Lozano in Austin, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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