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Awful Restaurant Diner Assaults Applebee's Customer for Speaking Swahili

"I'm actually thinking about moving out of Minnesota. I'm scared for my life. I don't feel comfortable here anymore."

Mike Mozart/Flickr

An Applebee's customer was violently assaulted by another diner last week for not speaking English.

The incident occurred October 30 at a restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minn., reports Minnesota Public Radio. The victim, a woman named Asma Jama, was seated with her family waiting for their food and conversing in Swahili; a couple in the booth next to them grew upset at hearing a foreign language being spoken and told Jama to "go home," reportedly saying, "When you're in America you should speak English."

Jama, who is Somali, emigrated to Minnesota from Kenya in 2000 and speaks three languages. She says she told the couple, "I can speak English, but we choose to speak whatever language we want," at which point the woman, Jodie Burchard-Risch, smashed a beer mug into her face and fled the restaurant.

Jama sustained multiple cuts on her face and had to get 17 stitches in her lip. A crowdfunding campaign set up for the victim by a friend has raised more than $10,000 for her medical bills. Jama says she has been traumatized by the incident; she tells the Associated Press, "I'm actually thinking about moving out of Minnesota. I'm scared for my life. I don't feel comfortable here anymore."

Burchard-Risch has been charged with third-degree assault; meanwhile, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for hate-crime charges to be filed against her.

Reached for comment by Eater, an Applebee's spokesperson issued the following statement: "Applebee’s is cooperating with authorities regarding this unfortunate incident, but does not discuss ongoing investigations."

Hate crimes happen everywhere, but restaurants appear to be a frequent setting for minor, more passive-aggressive scenarios: Earlier this year two Pizza Hut employees in Arkansas were fired for scrawling swastikas on a customer's order, and last month, Wendy's workers in Colorado slipped a racist note into a seven-year-old's kids meal.

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