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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Love and Hate in Orlando: Muslim Family Suspects Neighbors Shot Their Home

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Crime SceneSome time this past weekend, shots were fired at a family’s suburban home in a gated Orlando neighborhood. Two bullets hit the stucco wall of their house; a third bullet punched through the garage door and the interior garage drywall, where it passed through the master bedroom before finally coming to a stop in a six-drawer dresser.

Now, Amir Elmasri, his wife Nehal Elmasri, and their children fear that they have been the victims of a hate crime, an act of anti-Muslim outrage in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. What’s worse, because the family lives in a gated Orlando community, they believe one of their neighbors who knew that the family is Muslim must have fired the bullets.

The family doesn’t know exactly when the shots were fired. On Saturday night, Amir’s daughter was at a girl’s scout meeting, painting pictures of the Eiffel Tower as a peace sign. On Sunday morning, the family attended a charity event for Orlando’s homeless population.

Like many American families, the Elmasris moved to this Orlando suburb 13 years ago because they thought they would be safe there. According to the last census, 18 million Americans moved to the suburbs between 2005 and 2010 just like the Elmasris, but after the shooting, the family’s sense of safety has been shattered.

“Muslim, non-Muslim, other. We’re best friends here. Jewish, Christian, we have all these in our community. We really feel we are family,” Nehal said.

So far, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not released any information about the shooting or a possible motive, though the incident report noted that “[Amir] expressed concern and believes this incident may be retaliation towards him for the recent terrorist attacks in France because he is Muslim.”

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But ever since the family found the bullet holes in their home in the Lake Kehoe Preserve gated community, they have experienced a great show of love and support from friends and neighbors, many of whom stopped by personally to check on the family.

“It hurts me personally,” said next-door neighbor Al Feliciano. “There’s no doubt in my mind that that was a vicious and malicious act of hatred.”

In addition to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is investigating the shooting. As a precaution, a local Arab-American group has postponed a 5K walk originally scheduled for November 21.

On Friday, November 13, Islamic terrorists executed a series of coordinated attacks in Paris, France, the most deadly attack in the country since World War Two. In the days since, a mosque in St. Petersburg, Florida received threats of a firebomb, a mosque in Texas was vandalized, and a Canadian mosque was burned to the ground.

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