Police have detained a man who allegedly shouted anti-Muslim slurs at two women before stabbing men who intervened.The Council of American-Islamic Relations decried a massive increase in Islamophobic incidents in the US.
Two men were stabbed to death and a third was badly wounded while trying to prevent an alleged hate crime in the US city of Portland, Oregon, late on Friday. Police announced that they have the suspect in custody.
According to witnesses, a man began to shout and direct ethnic slurs at two women who appeared to be Muslim on a local commuter train shortly before the start of Islam's holy month of Ramadan.
"In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at," said police spokesman Pete Simpson during a press conference. "They were attacked viciously by the suspect."
According to police, one of the men died at the scene while another died at the hospital. The third victim was still receiving treatment but was expected to recover. The assailant was arrested shortly after getting off the train.
The two women who were reportedly the target of the suspect's hate speech left the scene of the crime before they could be interviewed by police, but witnesses said at least one of them was wearing a hijab. On Saturday, the mother of one of the girls, both teenagers, said that her daughter was African American and that she was with her friend, who is Muslim and was wearing a headscarf.
Police later named the suspect as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian, who has previously served time in prison for robbery and kidnapping. He is currently being held on suspicion of aggravated murder and attempted murder.
The incident shook the local community in Portland, a city perhaps best known as a haven of tolerance and liberal views.
'Trump must speak out personally'
Following the attack, the head of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, released a statement laying part of the blame on anti-Muslim sentiment stirred up by the election campaign of President Donald Trump, which was heavily focused on Islamic extremism.
According to CAIR, Islamophobic incidents in the US were up by more than 50 percent in 2016 as compared to 2015.
"President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities," said Awad.
The Trump administration has given contradictory impressions on its attitude towards Islam, first trying to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries before declaring in a recent speech in Saudi Arabia that "there is no battle between different faiths." He then laid most of the blame for instability in the Middle East on the government of Iran.
es/rc (AP, Reuters)