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.
In Nashville, Tenn., Iraqi-American Aqil Yassom Al-Timimi claimed someone set his Chevy truck on fire after the Sept. 11 attacks because he was of Arab descent. Although local TV stations ate up the hate crime angle, one keen reporter remained skeptical and raised the strong possibility of an insurance fraud scheme. Writing in the Nashville Scene, Matt Pulle reported that no notes or graffiti were left at the crime scene. Emergency personnel were immediately suspicious of Al-Timimi, who reportedly pressed them to alert the media as soon as they arrived at Al-Timimi's home.
Sources said they suspected Al-Timimi was the perpetrator all along, but more than a year and a half after the fire, the case has languished. Al-Timimi, the supposed victim of hateful wrongdoing, hasn't been heard from since. "If he was playing us," Pulle told me, "he did a perfect job."
The FBI and Justice Department have vociferously condemned and aggressively prosecuted a string of anthrax hoaxes that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. But when it comes to cracking down on hate crime hoaxes by Arabs and Muslims, the feds -- too busy conducting politically correct "outreach" with Muslim leaders who pooh-pooh hate crime fraud -- have been appallingly negligent. There is no way of knowing whether fake hate crimes outnumber real anti-Muslim crimes because no law enforcement agency keeps track. (Note to frustrated cops: Send me your suspected hoax cases and let's get started.)
Hoax crimes waste precious investigative resources, exacerbate racial tension, create terror and corrode goodwill. It's a shame so many in the media are more concerned with protecting the twisted cult of victimhood than with exposing hard truths.