A 39-year-old Muslim cab driver who served in the Iraq war says that an executive from an aviation company accused him of being a jihadist and broke his jaw in what activists are calling a hate crime.
Mohamed A. Salim told The Washington Post that Emerald Aviation President Ed Dahlberg attacked him after he picked him up at Country Club of Fairfax in Northern Virginia at around 2 a.m. on Friday. Dahlberg had been drinking and was told that he would have to finish his open beer before getting into the cab.
Salim recorded audio of the encounter on his cell phone.
Dahlberg can be heard asking Salim, who emigrated from Somalia, to define “jihad” and then lumping him in with “radical fucking Muslims blowing people up all over the world.”
“Denounce those motherfuckers now!” Dahlberg demands. “If you’re a fucking Muslim flying jets into the fucking World Trade Center then fuck you. I will slice your fucking throat right now.”
After Salim threatens to call 911, Dahlberg can be seen grabbing for the cell phone.
Salim said that Dahlberg left the cab, but then returned and broke his jaw before running into the woods.
Dahlberg was charged with misdemeanor assault and police are determining if charges should be elevated to a felony hate crime. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday said that medical records and the 11-minute cell phone recording were being used as evidence in the case.
In a statement, Dahlberg’s attorney, Demetry Pikrallidas, admitted that his client “became rather emotional as the discussion turned to jihad and 9/11, and especially heated on the subject of jihadists who want to harm America.”
Pikrallidas insisted that Dahlberg did not assault Salim.
The website for Dahlberg’s company, Emerald Aviation, was offline for four days of “scheduled maintenance” as of Wednesday afternoon. A cached copy of the website listed him as the president and said he had “20 years experience in the field of business and commercial aviation” and was known for “transparent business transactions and always effectively representing the best interests of his clients.”
Salim is a naturalized U.S. citizen and is an Army Reserve sergeant who has worked in intelligence and as a linguist. He served in Iraq and at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
“I sacrificed for this country,” Salim told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday. “And I myself was fighting the terrorists and I’m against acts of violence. I’m not a terrorist. I’m not a jihadist. I’m American like you.”
“Whether he’s guilty of assault or not is up to a jury to decide, but the video makes it clear that the guy is a bigoted asshole,” Jalopnik’s Patrick George observed on Wednesday. “There’s no excuse for treating someone else this way.”
Watch this video from The Washington Post, broadcast April 30, 2013.