It's the defendants' word against the plaintiff's and that of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). They say they were in a scuffle with the imam after one of them bumped into him and he scornfully refused to shake his hand. He says they shouted slurs against Muslims and attacked him gratuitously.
Of course, if they really did that, they'd have every reason to deny it and fabricate an alternative story. But surely the imam wouldn't have any reason to fabricate his charges against them, and make up a bias attack against himself, would he? Well, actually, there is abundant precedent. Hamas-linked CAIR and other Muslims have not hesitated to stoop even to fabricating "hate crimes," including attacks on mosques. CAIR and other groups like it want and need hate crimes against Muslims, because they can use them for political points and as weapons to intimidate people into remaining silent about the jihad threat.
So what happened here is anybody's guess. But both sides, not just the defendants, have ample enticement to lead them to make up their stories.
"2 accused of NY subway station hate attack on imam," from Associated Press, December 9 (thanks to JCB):
NEW YORK - Two men attacked a Muslim religious leader in a hate-fueled assault in a subway station, with one hurling slurs along with a fist, prosecutors and Muslim advocates said Thursday.
But defense lawyers said the incident was a fight spurred by an accidental bump, not bias.
Eddie Crespo, an officer with a transportation police force, and friend Albert Melendez were charged Thursday with robbery and assault, both as hate crimes.
The allegations rapidly sounded alarms from Muslim advocates, who added the incident to what they say is a spike in anti-Muslim violence this year. But lawyers for the men said authorities had miscast a straightforward dispute as a hate crime.
"This was certainly not a racially motivated attack. Judge, these are trumped-up charges," Melendez's lawyer, Angel Soto, said at his client's arraignment.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the victim was an imam but declined to identify him.
AP gives no hint, of course, of the fact that CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several of its former officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. Two of its other officials have made Islamic supremacist statements. CAIR also was involved in the Flying Imams' intimidation suit against the passengers who reported their suspicious behavior.
Melendez and Crespo -- the boyfriend [of] Melendez's sister, according to Crespo's lawyer -- crossed paths with the imam on a subway train early Wednesday, according to a court complaint.
According to the court complaint, Melendez, 30, declared "I don't like Muslims," and used an insulting term for Muslims or Arabs, before trying to kick the imam and grabbing him as he got off the train at a lower Manhattan station. CAIR said one of the attackers also smeared all Muslims as terrorists.
Amid a scuffle, Crespo, 28, grabbed the imam to help Melendez, according to the court complaint. Ultimately, Melendez punched the imam in the face and threw his kufi -- a prayer cap -- onto the subway tracks, the complaint said.
"The imam's prayer cap being thrown on the subway tracks, coupled with the religious and racial slurs, indicates that the motivation behind the violent attack was hatred towards the entire Muslim community," said Aliya Latif, the civil rights director for CAIR's New York chapter.
Defense lawyers said the fight began after Melendez and the imam bumped into each other and the imam scornfully refused to shake his hand.
Crespo tried to break up the scuffle and tend to the injured man afterward, said Crespo's lawyer, Arnold Keith. He said Crespo didn't even see the man's cap.
"This is a nightmare for him," Keith said in an interview.
Crespo, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridge and tunnel officer for five years, has been suspended without pay, the agency said....
CAIR hasn't compiled an exact tally of anti-Muslim incidents nationwide this year, "but anecdotally, we've seen a real uptick," particularly since debate flared this summer over plans for a mosque and Islamic center two blocks from ground zero, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group's national office....
Could it be that Honest Ibe Hooper doesn't have an exact tally because the figures show that hate crimes against Muslims are actually rare?