Castro Valley, CA – It was supposed to be another normal Sunday at the park for Rasheed Albeshari and his friends, until they were attacked by a local woman because of their Islamic faith.
Albeshari and his pals frequent Lake Chabot often, a quiet regional park in Alameda County.
But around 4 p.m. on Sunday, December 6, they were attacked by a woman who appeared disgruntled after she witnessed Albeshari’s pals praying on the grass.
Albeshari was waiting in the car for his three friends to finish their prayers when he saw the woman, since identified as Denise Slader, confront them. She had been walking on the sidewalk and appeared ruffled that the Muslim men were praying in the park.
“She was saying ‘Allah is Satan and you are all murderers,’” Albeshari recalled.
Albeshari approached Slader and began taping the confrontation on his cell phone.
“One of my friends was trying to tell her ‘We believe in Jesus. We love Jesus,’” he said.
But those words fueled the woman’s animosity even more. A park ranger disrupted the argument and asked Slader to move away.
Instead, she assaulted Albeshari with an umbrella and threw coffee in his face. He captured the tail end of the incident on video.
Police were called to the scene and a report was filed. According to reports, park police are recommending that Slader be charged with misdemeanor battery. On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District told NBC Bay Area that police would be forwarding their investigation to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
Albeshari said the District Attorney’s office was looking into a possible hate crime charge.
Following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA last week, where a Muslim couple killed 14 people at the County Health Department, Muslims fear they might be discriminated against or targeted because of their faith.
Albeshari had moved from North Carolina to California in 2011. Believing it to be the most progressive state in the country, he said he would’ve never imagined being targeted because of his religion or ethnicity.
"That's one of the main reasons why we love the Bay area,” he said. “It's people from all around the planet. I never thought this would ever happen to me here. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling.”
Albeshari still believes the majority of Americans are more accepting than Slader. He was relieved to see an outpouring of support from Americans when he posted the video of his encounter on Facebook.
“I see a lot support and I like how people have reacted to it,” Albeshari said. “It made me feel safe. But after this point, you still have to be very careful. What if it was a woman or a kid in my situation, what would’ve happened?”