Ending Hate Before it Begins in Naperville

Since the election of our newest president and his executive order to ban travel from several Muslim-majority countries, many communities, including Naperville, have been on edge when it comes to residents’ race and religion.

“We’re hearing from certain groups within the city, whether it’s cultural, religious, that they’re feeling some discrimination. I’m hearing this from teachers that their kids are coming to school worried that their parents are going to get sent away from them,” said Becky Anderson, a local business owner and City Councilwoman.

It’s a growing concern for many around town. But what constitutes a hate crime verses just hateful rhetoric?

Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall explains:

“It’s got to be a crime motivated by a racial slur directed at somebody’s religion, race or gender. Hate crime is a very serious crime, it’s a felony, and I think it’s very important that we take these crimes seriously,” he said.

While Naperville has only three reported hate crimes since 2014, what seems to be more common is hateful rhetoric.

“Generally speaking the courts have all said that purely just hateful rhetoric or things said are not crimes. I think it’s fair to say that right now our political climate is such that this is a central issue in American conversation,” said Thomas Cavegagh, a North Central College Professor of Law and Conflict Resolution.

It’s something that high school student Samia Abdul-Qadir experienced first hand, when she was bullied by a fellow teammate after wearing a hijab to a sports practice. She shared her reaction at a recent community forum:

“The first time that one of them saw me in hijab, he told me that I looked like a terrorist, it pierced my heart,” she said.

While it’s impossible to know how often cases like these happen, local leaders are urging residents to talk to authorities if they feel threatened.

“There are always some people who will come and do stupid things. So we are trying to have everyone educated about how to react to that situation, how to deal with them, and on the other side also have people understand we are who we are,” explained Krishna Bansal, Chairman of the Indian Community Outreach with the City of Naperville.

A step that will hopefully lead Naperville to continue to be welcoming and accepting of all its residents.

“No matter what you are, or what your background is, you should feel comfortable here, you should feel at home here, and we are one,” added Anderson.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.

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