(RNS) — A New Jersey man is in custody after authorities say he rammed his SUV twice into a Muslim woman’s car and harassed her family with racist threats.
Nutley police said local resident Michael Morrison, 55, began shouting statements, including “You’re a terrorist,” “I’m going to kill you” and “Go back to your country,” at the woman and her 16-year-old son on April 21 inside a Carvel ice cream shop, where they were waiting in line.
When the mother and son left the store, Morrison followed them and twice used his vehicle to hit the driver’s side of their car, police said. Authorities said he attempted to crash into the woman’s car once again while she was at a stop sign and then fled.
Morrison faces charges of aggravated assault, making terroristic threats, bias intimidation, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon with an unlawful purpose, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Nutley police are also summoning him on allegations of reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage and several other motor vehicle charges.
Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, welcomed the charges.
“Horrific acts of violence like this remind us of the rise in Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in our nation and the importance of condemning hatred whenever and wherever we see it,” Maksut said. “Tolerating this type of evil will only lead to more violence against minority communities.”
Morrison is being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
The alleged attack occurred the same day as MuslimGirl.com founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh received death threats against her family, soon after she announced a bid to represent New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District.
“It is the responsibility of government officials and law enforcement to proactively speak out against bigotry, letting the people of New Jersey know that Islamophobia is not welcomed in our state,” Maksut said.
The civil rights organization has also called for New Jersey’s Republican Party to condemn Jersey City Republicans’ recent anti-Muslim tweets against Yousef Saleh, Jersey City’s newly elected first Muslim council member.
Jersey City Republicans has claimed that Saleh is hiding “his plans to implement #ShariaLaw into #NewJersey,” using the hashtag “#islamicterrorisom,” and claimed that he “vows to to implement #ShariaLaw in #newjersey by taking oath on the Koran.”
Two months ago, after requests from CAIR-NJ, the Camden County GOP apologized for anti-Muslim memes posted on its Facebook page. The memes suggested former President Barack Obama was the leader of the Islamic State and depicted U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar as a terrorist who laughed at the 9/11 attacks.
Maksut said such “vile speech” puts the state’s Muslims at risk.
“It is disheartening to see anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from local political parties here in New Jersey, but not entirely surprising as it serves as a painful reminder of the Islamophobia that is increasing in our nation today,” he said.