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US: Muslim lawmaker demands federal investigation after Eid assault

Maryam Khan, the first Muslim member of the Connecticut House, recounted her violent assault that occurred on Eid al-Adha
Connecticut State Representative Maryam Khan surrounded by friends, family and lawmakers, in Hartford, Connecticut on 6 July 2023 (Associated Press)

Connecticut State Representative Maryam Khan is demanding a probe into the Hartford police department's alleged inaction during a recent violent assault after Eid al-Adha prayer, saying the incident was mishandled.

Khan wants the US Department of Justice to conduct a broad investigation into the Hartford police department's handling of violent crimes, particularly crimes against women. She argued that such crimes are handled inadequately, including the assault that she went through.

"I knew at that moment my body went numb and I thought I was going to die," Khan said in a nearly 30-minute news briefing on Thursday, wearing a sling on her right arm.

"If this person [was] going to grab a woman and do what he did, I am glad he grabbed me," she said referring to the fact that if it were any other woman, they would not have gotten the coverage and attention she has.

Khan is the first Muslim member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives. She won a special election for her seat in March 2022.

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On 28 June, Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail at God's request. 

Every Eid, Khan and her family join one of the largest Muslim gatherings in Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford. 

In an emotional press conference detailing the assault, Khan recalled how, after the Eid prayer was done, the congregants began to hug and greet each other. Her family also gathered together to take a few photos.

'Too close for comfort'

Every year, Khan has her three children recreate the same photo at the same spot in front of the centre. So, at around 11 am, that is where they headed.

As Khan was taking the photo of her children, a man approached them. He was "too close for my comfort", she said.

She said she told her friend and sister to bring her children inside. As they were all walking back inside the centre, the man reportedly made comments stating that he intended to have sexual relations with one of them. Khan said he looked at each one of them, including her 15-year-old and 10-year-old daughters. 

As soon as they got inside the building, the man reportedly grabbed Khan's face and asked her to give him a kiss. Khan said she pulled away and tried de-escalating. She said she tried to distract him and told him someone was calling him outside and that he should go. But nothing was working. 

What made matters worse was her kids were all there watching. "I went back outside, in hopes that he would follow me away from my children," she said.

Once outside, he tried to grab her face again, she said. This time, she dodged him, which angered him. Khan said he slapped her on the face.

He grabbed her in a chokehold with one arm, and with the other, he reportedly had his hand in the shape of a gun. At the news briefing, Khan recreated that hand signal, her hands shaking in the process.

'If... this is the best we can do, as a state representative who represents the city of Hartford, I cannot be ok with that.'

- Maryam Khan, state rep.

The man slammed her to the ground, at which point she shot right back up and ran as fast as she could back into the building, down to the ground floor where security was, and into a safe room. 

When the police arrived, she was told she had to walk two blocks to give her statement.

She went with her friend, identified the man - who was already in custody and sitting in the police van - and asked for medical attention. 

Once the ambulance arrived, she said she told them that something was wrong with her neck. They felt it and reportedly told her it was not a spine injury, gave her an ice pack and told her to go to urgent care if there was more pain. She then walked three blocks back to her car and went home.

Since the attack last week, Khan has gone to the emergency room twice. She was diagnosed with a concussion and has no feeling in her right arm and shoulder. 

The suspect, 30-year-old Andrey Desmond, was chased and subdued by bystanders until he was arrested by police. He is facing charges of third-degree assault, second-degree unlawful restraint, second-degree breach of peace and interfering with police.

"More than everything that happened to me at that moment, what's been the most difficult these last few days was seeing that the police report did not reflect everything or anything that happened to me," she said.

"The report said this person came up to us and asked us for a kiss. That's all. There were no children. This was not an Eid day. I was not a Muslim. Nothing. That's what's in the report."

At the news briefing, Khan called for an investigation into the police department, saying that no one came to her aid when her family screamed for help. 

"If it was anyone else and they were not a state representative, this is what happens? This is the best we can do?" she said

"If this is what's happening to me and this is the best we can do, as a state representative who represents the city of Hartford, I cannot be ok with that. I'm not okay with that."

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