Muslim woman recounts targeted assault that could be charged as hate crime

Nov 2, 2023, 10:02 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

MILLCREEK — A Muslim woman is recounting the horrifying moments she says she was assaulted at a TRAX station because of her religion. The Salt Lake County District Attorney is now investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Sidra Faithullah took a TRAX train home with her seven-year-old son in the Salt Lake Valley on Friday. She said that when the two got off the train, they saw a man across the street start yelling at them.

“We were definitely targeted 100% because we’re Muslims,” Faithullah said.

Faithullah, who practices Islam, explained that she chooses the level of modesty that she dresses as part of practicing her religion.

“From across the way, he started saying things like, ‘Go back to your country, terrorist,'” she said.

Faithullah said she tried to brush it off at first.

“I’m an American citizen. I’m a U.S. citizen, born and raised here,” she said.

With her son by her side, Faithullah watched as the man crossed the street and walked right up to them, screaming Islamophobic vulgarities and getting in her face.

“Told me to go home, and then spit in my face,” she said. “And as he spit on me, it went onto my son. My son started to panic.”

With that man’s saliva on both of them, Faithullah called the police. Utah Transit Authority police officers were quick to arrest 61-year-old Robert Wolcott on two counts of assault and other charges.

On Thursday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed his office is screening potential hate crime charges against Wolcott and may have a decision by Friday.

Wolcott’s alleged actions disgusted Faithullah and terrified her son.

“He’s seven years old, and he has autism,” she said.

She said he didn’t understand why someone would have so much hate in their heart.

“Now he’s afraid to go on the train, definitely 100%. And he doesn’t quite understand why people don’t like Muslims,” Faithullah said.

Having to explain that hurtful message to her son, Faithullah wants to spread a more positive one to others, of kindness and being open to other people’s differences.

“Especially the things that are happening, the political things that are happening between Palestine and Israel, I kind of want to bring that to light and hopefully educate people,” she said. “And so, people don’t feel so afraid of what they don’t know.”

She urged people to read up independently, educate themselves about the Muslim religion and world events, and ask questions if they don’t understand.

Faithullah is hoping people can replace that fear with love for others in their community.

She also urged people to stand up for others if they see any injustices. Faithullah said several people watched as she and her son were spat on and screamed at.

“We as Muslims, we’re just regular people. This isn’t my identity,” she said. “This is something that is part of my faith, but this isn’t who I am. I’m a regular person just like anybody else.”

The Utah Transit Authority released this statement about the incident:

UTA is aware of an incident which occured on the evening of October 27, 2023 on the platform of the TRAX Millcreek Station. A woman and her seven year old son were accosted by 61 year old Robert Lowell Wolcott who is alleged to have made disparaging remarks about their nationality and the Muslim faith. It is alleged Wolcott also spat on the woman and her son. UTA police officers quickly responded, taking Wolcott into custody. He was subsequently charged with assault, assault of a minor, disorderly conduct, public intoxication and criminal trespassing.

The safety and security of UTA passengers is our top priority. UTA has no tolerance for intolerant behavior. Our organization will remain vigilant and unwavering in our commitment to ensure the utmost safety for all UTA passengers.

–Jay Fox, UTA Executive Director

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Muslim woman recounts targeted assault that could be charged as hate crime