Two Austin women said over the weekend that they had experienced anti-Muslim hate speech at a local cafe, and that other customers sat in silence as they were “humiliated.”
KTBC reported that the two Muslim women, Leilah Abdennabi and Sirat Al-Nahi, said that they had hoped to enjoy Sunday lunch at Austin’s popular Kerbey Lane Cafe.
“My friend and I just experienced Islamophobia in Austin,” Abdennabi wrote in a Sunday Facebook posting. “This is the first time this has happened to me in Austin.”
Leilah, a Chicago-born Palestinian-American, explained that she found her friend “crying and upset” inside the restaurant.
“Apparently while I was parking some man next to her said somethings about my driving and that I should just go back to Saudi Arabia’,” she wrote.
The man went on to ask if Al-Nahi “had a gun” and then said that she should “just shoot him,” the women recalled.
“I literally couldn’t believe he said that and I asked him to repeat what he had just said,” Al-Nahi added in a separate Facebook post. “I couldn’t believe what he said and I guess I hoped someone would have the humanity to acknowledge it because their silence hurt just as much as his words.”
The women said that the restaurant’s host eventually made a “pathetic attempt to deescalate the situation” by seating the man, but the damage had been done.
“They chose to seat the racist guy who just made a girl cry right in from them, rather than us,” Al-Nahi wrote. “When we spoke to management, they basically said they were sorry it happened, but they can’t do anything.”
Abdennabi said that the pair decided to leave because they no longer felt welcome.
“As we were leaving I told the people watching ‘Just so you know, we were told racist things and this restaurant doesn’t feel the need to address it because who cares about us?'” she noted. “Another white guy shouted ‘Nobody.'”
“We left,” Al-Nahi added. “Because it was true.”
“No one else said or did anything,” Abdennabi pointed out. “[A]nd that’s what makes these experiences 1000x worse is the people just silently watching.”
In a statement, Kerbey Lane Cafe said that it had apologized to Abdennabi and Al-Nahi.
“We do not condone discriminatory comments or behavior in any way, shape, or form; and according to our policy the guest who made these hateful comments to another guest should have been asked to leave our restaurant,” the statement said. “This was a mistake made by our management, and we are addressing it with that individual. For anyone who has any concerns about Kerbey Lane’s policies, please contact us directly at or [email protected]”