When long-time limousine driver Badar “Tony” Aslam, 58, picked up a couple from a hotel in Norman to drive them in luxury to an Oklahoma City Thunder/Memphis Grizzlies basketball game at Chesapeake Arena, he had no idea the experience would end with a hate crime and injuries felt more than a week later.
On April 29th, driving for Oklahoma City-based Kings Worldwide Transportation limousine service, the Pakistani-American Muslim man was “verbally, physically and emotionally assaulted” after the man, who recently had triple-bypass surgery, revealed his ethnic background to the bigoted passenger.
This was revealed Wednesday during a press conference at the local office of Muslim civil-rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and their executive director Adam Soltani.
Soltani explained in detail how Aslam picked up the man – whose name was not publicly revealed, although we saw the report where it was listed – and female companion. While it started out friendly enough, Soltani said, things took a distinct turn for the worse after the man began asking Aslam personal questions.
“What was different, over the course of the conversation, was questions in regards to his ethnicity,” Soltani said.
The man asked him why he was here and aren’t Pakistanis and Muslims all terrorists?
When they got downtown to the area of the Chesapeake Arena, traffic was heavy and dropping people off was difficult. Even though things were uncomfortable by then, Aslam, a longtime professional driver, most recently from Connecticut, told the passenger he would wait at a nearby hotel, this, after Aslam got a ticket for letting off the passenger and friend in an unauthorized area after they jumped out before he had properly parked.
After the game, when Aslam had informed the passenger that they would have to meet at a different hotel, this was when he became verbally and physically abusive, cursing at him and striking Aslam in the chest, where his surgery scar is still visible, and in the shoulder. A week later the cut he sustained was still clearly visible.
Soltani showed members of the media images of Aslam’s injuries. Aslam said as an older man he wasn’t about to fight the guy and he added that if he was a younger man he wouldn’t have fought him. Fortunately, a bystander intervened and the man and his companion ran away.
“I didn’t want to call the police, because of pressure from the (limousine) company, these are my clients,” Aslam said. But he did call police and by then they had disappeared. Nevertheless, the company had the passenger’s c
“That guy should be arrested and punished for what he did,” said Aslam, who is an American citizen. “I’m scared now. I want justice.”
Aslam shared with the media that shortly after moving to Oklahoma City that he and his wife were held at gunpoint at an apartment complex and nothing was done.
“I’m scared here,” Aslam said. “I’m ready to surrender my nationality” and return to Pakistan.
Red Dirt Report later received a statement from OCPD Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said the following: “This suspect was intoxicated and upset that he was dropped off too far from his destination, then assaulted the driver. Those factors seemed to be the driving force behind the assault….NOT the victim’s religious preference (regardless of a comment he made during the incident). Investigation is ongoing, and case will ultimately be presented to the DA’s office for review…but more than likely our suspect will face a misdemeanor citation for assault and battery.”
Wardlow includes what constitutes a hate crime in Oklahoma: “State statute 21-850 a.1 states, “No person shall maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability: 1. Assault or batter another person…”
Meanwhile, Aslam did say his employer, Kings, was supporting him in the wake of the incident, because “they know I’m right.” And while many limousines have recorders in them, Aslam’s did not, so the exchange between driver and client was not recorded.
A spokesperson for Kings limo service was unavailable when contacted.
“Unfortunately, we live in a time when Islamophobia is increasing, Islamophobic rhetoric is increasing and we hope we don’t see more of these hate crimes, but there has been a pattern,” Soltani said.
Soltani later played the call of the crazed and dangerous passenger, calling the limousine company, saying his credit card better not be charged.
He noted a mosque in Oklahoma City being vandalized and Muslims physically assaulted. And with recent Islamophobic statements coming from non-Muslims or via anti-Muslim leaflets, as we recently reported, Soltani said they see a rise in Islamophobia and related actions.
Soltani said CAIR is working to make sure Aslam gets justice in the wake of this unfortunate event, so he can get back to work and back to his life as a driver.
And Soltani emphasized that if Aslam gets justice, other Oklahoma Muslims can know that if they are singled out or targeted due to their race or religious beliefs, that they will get justice as well.