In March 2022, a prominent Muslim preacher, Uthman Ibn Farooq, told the world he had been stabbed in downtown San Diego by a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs at him. He recorded the incident as it happened and subsequently posted the video to social media, garnering sympathy from his thousands of Muslim followers and leaving many wondering if they'd be the next victim of an "Islamophobic" hate-crime.
Within hours, news of the alleged attack spread far and wide beyond San Diego. In the UK, the Muslim news organization 5Pillars offered their sympathies to Uthman and condemnations for the attacker. The story even made headlines in Muslim news outlets as far away as Nigeria and South Africa. Uthman's own video of the incident has, to date, been viewed nearly half a million times, and a number of other prominent Muslim YouTubers have covered the incident including Eddie Deen, whose YouTube channel has more than 537 thousand subscribers.
Soon after the attack, Uthman stated he had filed a report of the attack with the San Diego police. After an apparent months-long search, Farooq revealed in September that the alleged attacker had finally been caught and arrested.
In the minds of his supporters, the saga, which attracted a significant amount of attention, likely confirmed Uthman's reputation as a tough and confrontational street preacher known for his verbal face-offs with Christians, Jews, and Hindus documented in hundreds of videos on his YouTube channel.
News of the stabbing was first reported in a March 23 tweet by the Muslim news outlet 5Pillars UK. The tweet included a photo Uthman took of himself in his car, bloodied by an apparent stab wound on his lower abdomen. The tweet mentioned that Uthman was stabbed at a public dawah stall and that he was targeted because of his frequent public proselytizing of Islam. His supporters were quick to offer sympathies, while others lamented the perceived double standards and hypocrisy of Western media for not reporting on this hate crime.
There's just one problem. There is little, if any, evidence to indicate that this alleged "Islamophobic" hate crime against Uthman ever took place. Repeated inquiries to the San Diego police indicate that no report about the stabbing was ever filed and that no arrest has been made.
So he's been attacked by a terrorist but the western media won't cover this.— Enam Anfield (@EnamAnfield) March 24, 2022
The next day, Uthman's Islamic non-profit organization, One Message Foundation, posted the video of the encounter that he had taken on his phone on its YouTube channel. The video shows a white male in a baseball cap and a disposable face mask aggressively approaching Uthman's car and shouting at him.
"I've seen your videos, man!" he said. "You're a (expletive) terrorist! (Expletive) you and your Muslim (expletive)!"
In the video, Uthman is heard responding: "you think I'm scared of you?" The recording abruptly ends when he drops his phone. Viewers are left to conclude that Uthman subsequently exited his vehicle to physically confront the man shouting at him.
The March 24th video ends with a message to Uthman's supporters in which he assures them that he has filed a police report and that detectives have the attacker's weapon and his face, and that he will not get away with it. The video also shows bandages on Uthman's lower abdomen, and he tells his viewers that he is totally fine after having been checked out of the emergency room.
The very next day after the Uthman posted the video, the San Diego Union Tribune reported the attack in a story published under the headline "Local Muslim Imam says in viral video that he was attacked by man who called him a terrorist."
According to the article, the San Diego Police Department could not provide details as to when or where the incident occurred, but that the SDPD was aware of the video and had been in touch with Uthman.
Lieutenant Adam Sharki told the San Diego Tribune in a statement that SDPD "takes reports of hate crimes very seriously" and that "anyone with information about this incident is asked to call police or Crime Stoppers."
The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned "this apparently bias-motivated attack on Sheikh Uthman and pray for his full recovery."
"Hate rhetoric can quickly turn into a hate crime causing harm to life and property, the local CAIR chapter stated. "We call on members of the public to offer any information they have about this attack and for city officials to take immediate action to ensure public safety for all minority communities."
For all the publicity the alleged attack generated, there appears to be no administrative record of Uthman reporting it to the police.
No record of the incident exists in a publicly accessible database of hate-crimes maintained by the police department.
With no luck searching through San Diego's hate-crimes database for any additional information about the incident, FWI reached out to the SDPD's records department to request any police reports or incident notes regarding the March, 23, 2022 attack.
Initially, the request was denied due to insufficient information with the SDPD requiring a police report number, or a location of the incident to process the query. According to the Tribune's reporting, the SDPD was unable to determine a time or a location of the incident.
But after thoroughly reviewing the footage posted by Uthman, the location of the incident can apparently be identified from rapid still frames of the video shown below.
The location of the incident appears to be a gas station located at 1606 Market Street in San Diego. A query based on this information was re-submitted to the SDPD on September 6, 2022, which also turned back inconclusive. An email from the police department reads as follows:
Thank you for your message. After a diligent search using the location and amended date of March 23, 2022 provided, the San Diego Police Department has no responsive records.
After the request to SDPD yielded no results, FWI reached out to Lieutenant Adam Sharki, the spokesperson for the SDPD who was quoted in the earlier Tribunal article. In an email dated September 22nd, 2022, Lt. Sharki stated that Uthman had not filed a report to the San Diego Police Department after the incident.
On September 9, Farooq had appeared on a podcast by the Green Lane Mosque in the UK, during which he provided additional details pertaining to the incident. He began by mentioning that – contrary to the initial reporting by 5Pillars UK – the incident occurred while Uthman was on his way out from the dentist's office, and not while he was at a public dawah booth.
"I knew as a Muslim in America, if it goes down to it they're gonna blame me. So I started recording," he recalls before then going on to describe the altercation.
"I toss my phone, we get into it. Alhamdullilah, I was able to get some good hits but as you can see he didn't touch me... and he was taller than me!" he boasted. "Instinctually, I grabbed his right hand, and during this struggle, he grabbed the knife. But Alhamdulillah, I was holding his hand, so he wasn't able to get a good stab – just a slice. I didn't feel any pain. [...] I grabbed his hand with two hands, and I started twisting his wrists until he dropped [the knife]. When he dropped it, I went to get the knife and he ran away like [a] coward."
After describing his victory over the "Islamophobic" attacker, Uthman reported that the perpetrator had been caught and arrested:
"Alhamdulillah, the surprise that I haven't told anybody is that he's been arrested, and he went to jail. I've got the email and the thing from the police with the charges [...] I've given his knife to the police and they have his fingerprints," he told the Green Lane podcast.
Following the new developments from Uthman, FWI reached out once again to SDPD Lt. Adam Sharki on October 9th and asked him if the department could corroborate Farooq's claims that his attacker has been arrested, and if possible, to provide any details pertaining to the arrest.
Lt. Sharki responded minutes later and told us that in order for an arrest to be made, there would first need to be a crime report, and since Farooq never made a police report, the SDPD could not possibly have made any arrests in relation to the incident.
"If someone had been stabbed and reported it to SDPD, there would be an SDPD crime case," he said. "My understanding is there is no crime case. Regarding an arrest, a person could not be arrested for a stabbing which was not reported/documented in a crime case. Hope this helps."
FWI reached out to Uthman for comment, asking if he would be willing to release any documents he received from the police or if he could provide any additional details about the attacker, the arrest, or the incident as a whole, but he did not respond to any of our requests by phone, email or social media.
Ahnaf Kalam is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.