Don’t let killers, kidnappers hide behind religious garb

Schiller and Almond streets in Port Richmond, Philadelphia, on May 3, 2008, after the fatal shooting of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. That pile of clothes in front of the white car was discarded by fleeing bank robbers who posed as Muslim women.
Schiller and Almond streets in Port Richmond, Philadelphia, on May 3, 2008, after the fatal shooting of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. That pile of clothes in front of the white car was discarded by fleeing bank robbers who posed as Muslim women. (PATTY-PAT KOZLOWSKI)

Daily Views / Guest Opinion

Posted: January 24, 2013

LOOK CLOSELY at the accompanying picture.

About 11:30 that morning, police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was shot and killed at this intersection while attempting to capture bank robbers armed with high-powered SKS assault rifles.

This picture is of the crime scene. You see Philadelphia police all over, taping off the corner, sealing off traffic. Pandemonium, chaos, a true nightmare.

Now look in the middle of the street, right in front of police car 24A. When I first came on the scene, I thought it was a dead dog. Nope. It's a pile of clothes. Very important evidence.

Howard Cain was apparently the mastermind behind the robbery of the Bank of America on Aramingo Avenue, and he was shot and killed after attempting to escape after shooting and killing Sgt. Liczbinski. Levon T. Warner and Eric DeShawn Floyd were his cohorts.

According to media accounts of that day, as police pieced together what happened, they determined that Cain had used the Bank of America to cash his weekly checks, and that it was his idea to rob that particular bank, but that his prison buddy, Eric DeShawn Floyd, had the know-how.

Not wishing to be identified at the bank that Cain frequented, they decided to disguise themselves by wearing Muslim women's clothes.

Cain apparently realized he couldn't hold up a bank where he was known, so he and Floyd donned Muslim women's clothes - hijab covering their heads; long dresses, called abaya; and face veils, called nikab - to prevent detection .

That pile of clothes in the middle of Schiller and Almond streets was the Muslim garb that the bank robbers and then cop- killers donned to pull off their crime. They stormed into a Bank of America branch in a busy ShopRite supermarket dressed like Muslim women so nobody could identify them. Nobody stopped them and asked them to remove their face veils for identification or safety because God forbid we be politically incorrect and tread on their civil liberties and religious freedoms.

And it was that fear and forced tolerance that allowed them to pull out those high-powered rifles and rob the bank, then speed through Port Richmond, where five minutes later they opened fire on a little side street full of rowhouses, kids and neighbors, and killed one of our cops.

Do you know that the people on Schiller Street cradled Liczbinski in their arms as he bled to death? They held kitchen towels against his wounds to try to stop the bleeding. They didn't care about the gunfire coming from a very ugly woman dressed in a hijab, firing from a stolen Jeep. Except it was not a Muslim woman; it was Howard Cain disguised as one to avoid identification.

And just last week, a woman signing her name as "Tiffany" entered Bryant Elementary School dressed in Muslim clothing and simply took a 5-year-old girl out of the classroom. Not one staffer or administrator asked this woman for ID or to respectfully lift her face veil to reveal who she was. Why? Religious freedom. The freedom to hide your face. The freedom to not be properly identified.

Muslim women wearing hijabs is actually a commandment from Allah: "O Prophet, tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw over them their cloaks [veils]. That in the least so that they be recognized and not be molested." (Surah Ahzaab, Verse 59.)

The only religious garb I had to endure as a Catholic was eight years of blue plaid jumpers with Peter Pan collars and black-and-white saddle shoes. (I would have gladly ditched it in the name of public safety and security.)

I think its damned time for public safety to be put before religious freedom on this one. Religious Muslim leaders need to ease the restrictions for everybody's safety and lives. Criminals are using your own commandments to kill, kidnap and do very bad things behind a veiled face and body.

Would a simple removal of the veil for identification in banks, schools and other public facilities, such as airports and sporting-event arenas, be intolerable? What if we promised not to molest the Muslim women if we saw their faces?

Chances are, cop-killer Howard Cain would not have dressed as a Muslim woman if he had to identify his face under the veil at Bank of America, and "Tiffany" would never have kidnapped the 5-year-old last week in West Philadelphia if she had to raise her veil and reveal who she really was.

Think that's unfair and cruel and unjust trampling of your civil liberties? Take one for the team of humankind. Because of the threat of terrorism, I go through the equivalent of a full OB-GYN exam at Philadelphia International Airport every time I fly down to the Florida Keys . Even though all I want is to get on the plane and get a can of ginger ale and a blanket that doesn't smell like armpit, I still completely shave from my eyebrows down to my ankles knowing I have to endure a body search and pat down. Why? Because even though I'm not going to blow up the plane, I also know I have nothing to hide. And it's something we all have to go through because very bad people ruin it for us all and do very bad things.

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