I haven’t forgotten the Popal rampage, and thought I’d update you on a couple of stories that are still filtering through.
First, the tragedy: Popal’s rampage left a 43 year old woman a quadriplegic:
It was Susan Rajic’s birthday Friday. The 43-year-old massage therapist was supposed to go out to dinner to celebrate with friends in San Francisco, the city where she had moved from Puerto Vallarta just last month.
But Rajic — who came to the city in part because she loved to walk — now lies paralyzed from the neck down in a San Francisco General Hospital bed, the most severely injured of the 19 people hurt in a hit-and-run rampage Tuesday that also killed a Fremont man.
The driver who allegedly struck Rajic, 29-year-old Omeed Aziz Popal of Fremont, faces one count of murder, 18 counts of attempted murder and other felonies. Popal is being housed in the psychiatric jail ward of the same hospital where doctors are treating Rajic.
Doctors have told her family and friends that the sport utility vehicle that hit Rajic and threw her against a parked car broke her neck and that it is unlikely she will ever walk again. The Honda Pilot struck her as she crossed California at Laurel Street about 1 p.m. near her home.
Rajic has some sensation in her hands and shoulders, but she is unable to move her fingers and has no movement or feeling in her legs, doctors say. She underwent a 4 1/2-hour operation Wednesday in which doctors removed a portion of her hip bone and used it to bridge a gap where they had to remove a vertebrae that was pressing on her spinal cord.
My very deepest sympathy to Ms. Rajic, and my best wishes to her as she adjusts to a very different new phase of her life.
Second, the local Afghan community is denying that Islam has anything to do with Popal’s acts, a view that deserves some respect pending more information about Popal himself. What’s startling about the report I read is that one prominent Afghan/Muslim community spokesperson has acknowledged that it’s not unreasonable or racist for Americans to be questioning whether there is a religious component to Popal’s acts:
Rona Murtaza Popal, president of the Afghan Women’s Association, who is not related to Omeeda Popal, said the increased scrutiny has led members of the Afghan Coalition, an umbrella organization of local Afghan groups, to plan a news conference to discuss some of the issues facing the local Afghan community.
But Popal wants to know the motive before making a public statement about the case. And like members of the media, she has had little success in contacting the victim’s parents.
“Afghans are extremely afraid,” Popal said. “After 9/11, people didn’t want to leave their homes. We don’t want these incidents to happen. We came here because we wanted to be safe.”
Still, Popal said, she understands the fears about domestic terrorism.
“I don’t blame them. I understand how they feel,” she said when asked to respond to the online comments. “In Afghanistan, we lived in fear of terrorism. That’s why we left.”
It’s actually striking in today’s news climate to hear this open admission that it’s reasonable to be afraid of Muslims. The opposite and dominant view (which Ms. England stated and Best of the Web skewered) is that we’re utterly irrational to be afraid of Muslims and that it’s our fear that is damaging these fragile souls so much that they’re impelled to go on murderous rampages.