Saturday November 7, 2015
By Mukhtar Ibrahim
Asma Jama was sitting at a Coon Rapids Applebee’s last Friday when a fellow diner confronted her for not speaking English. When Jama, who speaks three languages, responded, the woman smashed a glass beer mug across her face. Jama sustained cuts across her face and a deep gash on her lip that required 17 stitches. Courtesy of Asma Jama
Asma Jama sat chatting with her family in a booth at the Coon Rapids Applebee’s, a glass of cranberry juice just set before her. A few minutes later, she was in an ambulance and bleeding, her lower lip split in two.
That was a week ago. As Jama waited for her pasta Alfredo, a woman at a nearby booth smashed a beer mug in her face.
The reason? Jama had been speaking Swahili with her family.
“I [can’t] believe after all these years somebody hit me because I’m different,” Jama said. “Somebody hit me because I was speaking a different language.”
The attack left cuts on Jama’s face and a deep gash on her lip.
Jodie Burchard-Risch, 43, and her husband had been sitting in the booth next to Jama, who was with her cousins and nieces. The couple became upset when they heard Jama and her family conversing in a foreign language, according to a criminal complaint.
Jama said the couple told them to “go home.” They said that “when you’re in America you should speak English.”
Jama, an ethnic Somali, came to Minnesota in 2000 from Kenya. She speaks three languages: English, Swahili and Somali.
“I’m home,” she told Burchard-Risch at the Applebee’s. “I can speak English, but we choose to speak whatever language we want.”
Authorities say that’s when Burchard-Risch hit Jama in the face with the glass mug.
“They looked like just a normal couple that were having dinner and having fun and having drinks,” Jama said.
On Monday, Burchard-Risch, of Ramsey, was charged in Anoka County District Court with third-degree assault.
On Friday, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) called for hate crime charges.
“The current charge is insufficient to communicate the seriousness of and possible bias motive for the alleged attack,” Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN executive director, said in a statement.
Paul Young, criminal division chief of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office, told The Associated Press that prosecutors are still working on the case, waiting for medical reports, and could file additional or enhancement charges.
“I don’t feel comfortable here anymore”
Jama said she’s feeling “traumatized” and doesn’t feel safe leaving the house alone. When she needed to go to the clinic to have the 17 stitches removed from her lip on Thursday, she asked her cousin to join her.
“I’m actually thinking about moving out of Minnesota,” she said. “I’m scared for my life. I don’t feel comfortable here anymore.”
She said she might join her sister, who left Minnesota in June for Dallas. Before she left, her sister begged Jama to come with her.
“I’m never leaving Minnesota,” Jama had told her sister.
Jama said if some people have a prejudice against a certain group, they should try to talk those who look different than them.
“You’ll realize that they are not bad people; that we’re all the same at the end of the day,” she said.
“I was attacked by a white lady. That doesn’t mean I hate every white person. That’s impossible. The person that helped me next was a white man.”
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