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Gilmer Man Says He Was Attacked Because He's Muslim

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By Wilton Johnson

A Gilmer man says he was beaten by two men who also threatened his life because he is a Muslim. He calls it a hate crime.

This is the first time since Saturday that James Berry has been at home. Friday night he says two drunk former co-workers beat him just inside his front door.

"When I turned this way the other one grabbed me by the neck and took me to the ground," Berry recounted Thursday.

Berry says that's when he felt a gun put to his head.

"I said the words (HIM-DAH-LAH), which means praise God, praise be to Allah, because I thought I was going. The one with the gun said,'Yeah you pray to Allah you Muslim <expletive>, you Muslim piece of <expletive>. Pray to Allah," Berry said.

The Upshur County Sheriff's Department couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation, but Chief Deputy Bobby Sanders did say it was being handled as an assault case. The Council on American Islamic Relations says this is a hate crime.

"This isn't just a simple assault case. This is a case where religious slurs and a bias nature were evident during the assault," said Council Spokesman Ibrahim Hooper from Washington, D.C.

Berry says he doesn't believe Upshur County is taking this seriously so he contacted the FBI, who in turn, have opened their own investigation into the matter. Hopper hopes federal involvement will show the real injustice.

"Once it's investigated as a possible hate crime, we'll see what potential charges could be brought above and beyond the normal charges brought in any assault case and if there's a civil rights violation here that could lead to federal charges," said Hooper.

As Berry patiently awaits word from either authority whether any arrest will be made, he can't help but wonder if the process would've been faster if two Muslims attacked a Christian.

"Muslims would've been paraded in front of the media and thrown under the jail," said Berry.

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