Nizar Doar is of Palestinian descent, and for 35 years, he has lived in the U.S. without being concerned for his family’s safety or his own.
That all changed Sunday night, when his son, Zacharia Doar, 23, was stabbed in the back in an apparent hate-motivated incident.
That day, Nizar and his son attended a protest in Austin, Texas, calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Nizar and a friend headed home to Mansfield, about 180 miles away, but Zacharia decided to stay behind with some friends to grab a bite. He was in a car with three other Muslim Americans when he was attacked.
When the four young men pulled up at a stop sign, a passerby attempted to rip a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf hanging out of their car window, Nizar told HuffPost. The man allegedly opened the car door and attacked Zacharia.
The assailant yelled racial slurs, including the N-word, as Zacharia and his friends tried to subdue him, according to Nizar. The man allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed Zacharia in the back, breaking one of his ribs.
A suspect, Bert James Baker, 36, has been arrested.
Nearly two hours into the drive to Mansfield, Nizar received a call from one of Zacharia’s friends telling him what had happened.
“I really thought I was going to lose my son,” Nizar said. “This is the worst thing that could happen.”
Zacharia was rushed to the hospital and received two pints of blood. He was released Tuesday evening.
“He’s in pain,” Nizar said at a news conference on Tuesday. “He’s in agony.”
Baker was charged with second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Austin police said in a statement Tuesday that the stabbing appeared to be a “bias-motivated incident” and that the case would be “reviewed by the Hate Crimes Review Committee.”
There has been a leap in anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments nationwide in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed some 1,200 people. In subsequent bombings of Gaza, Israeli forces have killed more than 26,000 civilians.
In the U.S., hate crimes against Arab and Muslims have surged in recent months. In Vermont, three Palestinian students were shot while on a walk, in what a county attorney general called “a hateful act.” In Illinois, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death and his mother was hospitalized in a hate crime by their landlord, who was angered over the Israel-Hamas war.
“This apparent act of hate in Austin appears to be the latest incident of hate motivated by the rise in anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “Those responsible for this violence must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and those fomenting the hate that leads to this violence must be condemned.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“The constant dehumanization of Palestinians, Arab & Muslim Americans has real, dangerous consequences,” Tlaib posted on X, the former Twitter.
Zacharia is the youngest of three children, and helps Nizar manage the family’s automotive business.
“He’s my pride and joy,” Nizar told HuffPost. “When he was born, he always had a smile. When I came home from work and I was tired, I just looked at him and he made me smile, and all the tiredness would go away.”
Zacharia is married and has a 5-month-old son of his own.
Nizar, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kuwait, said his son’s stabbing could have been prevented.
“We have lived in peace and harmony for the past 35 years in this country where we did not fear anything,” he said.
Nizar argued that ending the war in Gaza, including by establishing an immediate cease-fire, would also end the spillover of hate crimes in the U.S.
“This is not a Palestinian issue. This is not a Muslim issue. This is not an Arab issue,” he said. “This is humanity. This is something everybody in the world needs to stand for.”