Mazhar Tabesh, Nezar "Mike" Maad, and Aqil Yassom Al-Timimi all have something in common. They were held up by Muslim activists as innocent victims of the "post-September 11 backlash." They milked the compassion of their communities. They won sympathy from the media and politicians.
And now it appears they were all hate crime hucksters who cried "racism" to cash in on the terrorist attacks.
Mazhar Tabesh, a naturalized American originally from Pakistan, co-owned a motel in Heber City, Utah. Last July, someone set the lodge ablaze, causing nearly $100,000 in damage.
"We are really scared because we are Muslim -- probably the only Muslims in the area -- and we are the target," Tabesh declared. "It's scary." Tabesh complained of receiving threatening calls from anonymous hatemongers who "told us they would get us if we didn't get out."
Utah residents organized a benefit concert and raised $1,400 for Tabesh's family. The national press jumped on the bandwagon: "Immigrant Family Feels Post-9-11 Rage," blared a Los Angeles Times headline. The accompanying 1,100-word story suggested that "white supremacists and skinheads living in the area" might be to blame.
But the chief suspect turned out to be Mazhar Tabesh himself. Prosecutors say Tabesh invented a "mystery man" arsonist and lied about witnessing the non-existent lodger running from the hotel after the fire started. His motive? A Heber City police officer testified at a preliminary hearing that Tabesh was losing about $5,900 a month on the motel and still owed $450,000 on the mortgage.
Tabesh will stand trial in June on first-degree felony aggravated arson charges. Don't count on the Los Angeles Times to cover it.
The tale of Nezar "Mike" Maad follows the same basic plot. Maad, an Arab-American businessman and "tolerance advocate," owned a print shop in Anchorage, Alaska. On Sept. 21, 2001, someone destroyed equipment and spray-painted "We hate Arabs" inside the store. Community leaders created the "Not in Our Town" fund, a city-backed charity which raised a whopping $75,000 for Maad. A local newspaper editorial declared unequivocally that the incident "was a hate crime. It was vandalism. It was a statement against bedrock American values . . . "
Five months after Maad was "victimized," a jury convicted him of federal fraud charges. During the hate crime investigation, agents discovered that Maad had lied on bank loan applications and federal forms about his business finances and prior criminal convictions. Nevertheless, Maad received a reduced sentence of six months' prison time.
The FBI dropped its hate crime investigation; Maad and his wife remain the prime suspects in the languishing property damage case.