A woman in Portland, Ore., faces hate crime-related charges after she allegedly ripped the hijab off a Saudi exchange student and tried to choke her with it at a transit stop, according to state prosecutors.
Jasmine Renee Campbell, 23, has been indicted on two counts of bias crime in the second degree and one count of attempted strangulation, according to a statement from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. Campbell is wanted on an arrest warrant after she failed to appear at a court hearing on Friday.
The state uses the term “bias crime” in its hate crime legislation. All three charges are misdemeanours.
The alleged attack happened at a bus stop in Portland on Nov. 12, 2019 at approximately 7:30 p.m., according to court documents cited by the district attorney’s office. The suspect allegedly grabbed the victim’s hijab from behind, tried to choke her with it and then forcibly took it off her. The suspect then stripped down and rubbed the hijab across “multiple exposed sexually intimate parts of her body,” the court documents allege.
“The defendant stated that she was fighting and playing around, that she wanted to be a stripper, and she wanted to show the victim that she did not have to be a Muslim, that people don’t have to be black or white, and that she wanted the victim to know that religion doesn’t define her,” the court documents said, according to the Portland Mercury newspaper.
The victim is a 24-year-old foreign exchange student from Saudi Arabia who attends Portland State University, the district attorney’s office said. She regularly wears a hijab and was not previously known to the suspect. Her name has not been released.
The victim later told police that she “no longer feels safe wearing a hijab in public” and that she is “relying on alternative methods to cover herself,” according to court documents.
The Portland Police Bureau arrested Campbell on Dec. 13, 2019 on an unrelated matter. She did not appear at a scheduled court date on Jan. 3, 2020 and remains the subject of an active warrant.
Campbell told Fox 12 on Friday that she wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, that she’d had too much to drink and that she suffers from a mental health condition. Campbell claimed she’d been seeking treatment for her mental health issues, and that’s why she missed her court date.
“My heart goes out to the survivor here, who’s been deeply traumatized,” said Zakir Khan, Oregon chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement to NBC News.
Khan described the incident as a “tremendous tragedy” in a separate interview with the New York Times.
Community leaders in Portland have strongly condemned the alleged incident.
“It’s a terrible reminder of how Muslim women are being targeted, not only here in Oregon, but also all throughout the country,” Khan said. He added that it’s just another case of Muslim Americans facing Islamophobia in their own country.
“It really impacts the safety of Muslim Americans,” he said. “We need to be a country that really strives to protect that safety, but also helps people feel at home here.”
Musse Olol, chairman of the Somali American Council of Oregon, said it’s “very sad” that such an attack happened.
“It’s something that’s been happening the last few years, especially if the target is a woman of Islam that wears the traditional scarf, very visible,” Olol told Fox 12. “The fear — I’ve talked about it before — is real.”
Campbell remained at large on Monday morning.