US & Canada

Mayor Bill de Blasio praises 'threatened' Muslim officer

Officer Aml Elsokary Image copyright ABC
Image caption Officer Aml Elsokary joined the police force after the attack against the World Trade Center.

A man who New York officials say harassed a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf may have picked the wrong target - an off-duty police officer.

Officer Aml Elsokary, a New York native, was with her son in a Brooklyn neighbourhood when she was allegedly threatened with violence.

A man began pushing and shouting at her 16-year-son before telling her to "go back to your country", officials say.

On Monday, the mayor of New York praised her service to the city.

"In 2014, she ran into a burning building and helped to save a young girl and her grandmother," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference.

Image copyright NYPD
Image caption Elsokary was awarded for running into a burning building to rescue a toddler and grandmother

"And, then, on Saturday, she had to experience a man allegedly yelling at her and her son, 'Go back to your country,'" said Mr de Blasio.

"Well this is Officer Elsokary's country. She is an American. She is a New Yorker. She's already at home."

On Monday, Christopher Nelson, 36, was charged with menacing as a hate crime.

During the attack, he allegedly used an expletive to call the officer a member of the Islamic State group, and threatened to "cut" Mrs Elsokary's throat.

Officer Elsokary said she joined the police force after the attacks of 11 September: "I became a police officer to show the positive side of a New Yorker, a Muslim woman, that can do the job.

"I help everybody, no matter what your religion, what's your faith, what you do in New York. I'm born and raised here."

Image copyright ABC
Image caption Christopher Nelson has been charged with a hate crime

Hate crimes have risen in New York by 35%, according to the New York Police Department (NYPD).

The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force has deemed 43 incidents possible hate crimes since Donald Trump was elected a month ago - more than double the number cases reported during the same period last year.

Mayor de Blasio said that he believes that Mr Trump is partly responsible for the increase in hate attacks, due to his "hate speech" and the "horrible things" he has said about Muslims.

On Monday, a city transit worker wearing a Muslim headscarf was pushed down steps by a man that called her a "terrorist".

Over the weekend, racist graffiti was scrawled on subway trains and white supremacist materials were distributed at a rail station, the New York mayor said.