Muslim girls harassed at Chicago-area Mexican restaurant: ‘If you don’t like this country, leave’

Sawin Osman, a high school student who was born and raised in Chicago, told Yahoo News that she and her friends were harassed Monday night while eating at a Mexican restaurant in Hickory Hills, Ill. They were at Pepe’s restaurant on Monday night for Iftar, the evening meal after their Ramadan fast.

Another customer, an unidentified middle-aged man, noticed the five girls’ religious headscarves and made a rude comment alluding to one friend’s weight and to their religion, according to 17-year-old Osman.

One of the girls used her smartphone to shoot video of the encounter, and Yahoo News spotted it on social media. Osman agreed to be identified in order to speak out against the inflammatory comments.

“We were walking past him on our way out of the restaurant. He yelled, ‘That girl could break a camel’s back,’” Osman recalled. “We stopped and said, ‘Excuse me, sir, what did you just say?’”

“You can go and beat it. If you don’t like this country, leave,” the man said.

“It’s our home too. What do you mean leave?” Osman said.

According to Osman, the man said that the entire exchange wasn’t a big deal. “I just said she’s a big one. What’s the problem? Yeah, anything else?”

Another friend told the man that he’s “disgusting,” prompting him to get out of his seat.

“It looked like he was going to get physical, so we all started to walk,” she said.

As the girls were leaving, he screamed, “F***ing goddamn, camel-jacking mother f***ing c***s.”

A Pepe’s employee at the location told Yahoo News that they have been told about the video, which does not depict staff doing anything amiss. (Neither a location manager nor a company rep was immediately available for comment.)

Osman’s mother, Catherine Bronson, is a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame and her stepfather, Sean Anthony, is a professor of Islamic Studies at Ohio State University. They have a bi-religious family.

“We live in a very charged climate. I think the furor at the presidential level has sort of exacerbated this feeling and given a platform for those who might not have spoken out so aggressively,” Bronson said.

Osman agrees. She said this incident shows that anti-Muslim bigotry is a huge problem in the U.S.

“It’s honestly very terrible and disgusting, especially the comment, ‘If you don’t like it, then just leave.’ I mean I was born here. I was raised here. Leave to where?” she asked.

She said all of her friends at the restaurant that day are from Chicago.

“Just because we have the headscarf on doesn’t mean we’re not from here,” Osman said.

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