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Woman charged in Fort Hood-related hate crime: Pulling a headscarf

An Illinois woman is charged with a hate crime for berating a Muslim woman about the Fort Hood shooting and then pulling at her headscarf. The charge could lead to three years in prison: justice or prosecutorial overkill?

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In the days after the Ft. Hood shooting, mosques around the country bolstered their security in anticipation of a backlash from Americans angry about a Muslim man alleged to have killed American soldiers on their own turf.

Since then, only one alleged hate crime against Muslims has been directly tied to the Fort Hood rampage.

Two days after the rampage by an alleged lone wolf jihadist killed 13 in Texas, a Tinley Park, Ill., woman grumbled about the massacre and tugged the headscarf of a US-born Muslim woman, Amal Abusumayah, standing in line at a local grocery store.

Reaction was swift and, as prosecutors announced this week, serious: The alleged scarf-puller, Valerie Kenney, is charged with a hate crime, and she could face three years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.

The incident shows that prosecutors are increasingly serious about throwing the book at even small infractions of state and federal hate-crime laws. Yet three possible years in prison in this case, critics say, is overkill, and could serve to cheapen the definition of a hate crime.

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