Murfeesboro Muslim mom: Road rage incident ‘a hate crime’

It was a scary night for a Murfreesboro mother and son after a road rage incident took an ugly turn. The mother told DNJ news partner WSMV-TV that not only did the driver threaten to kill them, he started yelling racial slurs because of the way she was dressed.

Converted Muslim Lisa Sallaj, 43 of Murfreesboro said she hasn’t slept a wink since road rage incident. “I’ve been sick to my stomach. I’ve been shaking, nervous, lying in bed tossing and turning,” Sallaj told WSMV reporter Larry Flowers.

It all started on Medical Center Parkway near Interstate 24 around 8:30 Tuesday night. “He had just received his driver’s license. I was in the car with him,” the mother said.

Sallaj’s 18-year-old son was in a left turn lane, but needed to go straight. He pulled out right out in front of a black Mustang. “The guy went ballistic,” said Sallaj. “He went nuts.”

It got much worse. “He started yelling and cussing saying you (expletive) need to learn how to drive,” Sallaj told Flowers. “Then I look over and he has a knife out shaking at me saying, ‘I’ll kill you.'”

Sallaj told her son to pull over so she could get the tag number, she said. She started driving, but ended up right next to the black Mustang at a traffic light where the driver revved up his engine.

She said he then started using anti-Islamic slurs, mocking an Islamic prayer chant and making “racial slurs.” The mother said she really got scared when the man began yelling at her son. “He said he would put a red bullet dot in the center of his eyes,” Sallaj said.

The mother said the man followed them onto Broad Street. It was only after she shouted she was heading to the police station that he decided to leave them alone.

“I’m already under a lot of stress from all the discrimination and everything that’s been going on in Murfreesboro lately with everybody giving me dirty looks,” Sallaj said.

Murfreesboro police are investigating. “It’s something we’re not going to tolerate especially with the current situation with the mosque,” said Murfreesboro Police spokesman Kyle Evans, referring to vandalism at the site of the proposed Veals Road Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. “We’re not going to let that situation get out of hand.”

Sallaj said there is no doubt in her mind she was targeted because of her Muslim head dress. “This was definitely, definitely a hate crime,” Sallaj told WSMV.

Daily News Journal, 28 July 2011