Toronto - After suffering severe injuries during an acid attack at a traffic stop in Birmingham England more than a week ago, victims Jameel Muhktar and Resham Khan are questioning why police have so far refused to classify the crime as a terror attack.
Toronto – After suffering severe injuries during an acid attack at a traffic stop in Birmingham England more than a week ago, victims Jameel Muhktar and Resham Khan are questioning why police have so far refused to classify the crime as a terror attack.
It was supposed to be a joyous, milestone occasion, the happy celebration of a beloved cousin’s 21st birthday. Instead it turned into a living nightmare.
As 37-year-old Jameel Muhktar and his cousin Resham Khan sat waiting for a traffic light on June 21, a man he described afterward as “white British” knocked on the driver’s side window. As Muhktar lowered it to see what the man wanted he and Khan were both squirted with what they thought at first was water.
Then the burning began, followed by unimaginable pain as the liquid, now clearly acid, began to eat through their clothing and skin. Muhktar lost control of his vehicle, crashing into a barrier.
As they both screamed for help and Muhktar tried to remove his clothing, residents came to their aid with buckets of water, hoping to stem the damage. After deciding the ambulance was taking too long to arrive on scene, they flagged down a passing driver who brought them to a nearby hospital.
Their injuries were both extensive and horrific. Khan suffered acid burns to her face and body which required excruciating skin grafts. Muhktar’s injuries were also life-changing, affecting his stomach, face, neck, ears, arms and back. He needed “extensive” surgery to recover and was initially placed into a 2-day coma.
Both victims are mystified that the attack has not been handled as a hate crime by investigators. “If this was an Asian guy like myself,” Muhktar told the UK’s Channel 4 News, “going up to an English couple in a car and acid attacking them, I know for a fact and the whole country knows that it would be classed as a terror attack.”
He added that “It’s definitely a hate crime. I believe it’s something to do with Islamophobia. Maybe he’s got it in for Muslims because of the things that have been going on lately.”
Struggling to understand what possibly could have motivated their attacker to commit such a crime, Muhktar said, “I don’t have any problems with anybody. My cousin is 21, she’s a business student. Why would anyone do that to us?”
Friends of Khan spoke of her reaction to the crime and how it has altered her life. “Resham is usually a very confident young woman…but now she feels as though her identity has been stolen from her.”
“Although we have faith justice will be served once the criminal is caught, the scars Resham and Jameel will carry will last a lifetime,” they added.
As for police reaction to the attack, Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews, said that, for now, there is “no current information to suggest that this attack was racially or religiously motivated.”
He added that “We will continue to progress these enquiries as quickly as humanly possible and fully understand concerns that they should be brought to justice quickly.”
Meanwhile, however, the alleged perpetrator is still on the loose, more than a week after the incident. The Facebook page belonging to 24-year-old, John Tomlin, is replete with far-right rhetoric and declarations such as “We will stand and we will fight. We will reclaim what is rightfully ours. We will not surrender.”
Police are soliciting the public for any assistance leading to his apprehension.