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Cuomo Proposes New Legislation After Muslim Employee Attacked At JFK

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced new initiatives protecting the rights of transportation workers after a Muslim airline employee was attacked at John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier this week.

"This recent incident was a despicable act that should be taken very seriously," Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, said.

Officials say they will propose legislation that would make assault against airport workers a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The governor said they will also explore all legal options to protect refugees and immigrants coming to the United States through New York airports following Trump's executive order banning immigration from seven nations.

"New Yorkers have zero tolerance of discrimination or bias of any kind and we will continue to stand up to protect those who are disenfranchised," David said.

Cuomo said the new legislation, dubbed the Transportation Worker Protection Act, will apply to all transportation workers across the state.

"No one should be attacked because of their job or their race or their religion," Cuomo said.

Prosecutors said Delta employee Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, was sitting in her office in the Delta Sky Lounge at Terminal 2 at JFK between 7:10 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, while Robin A. Rhodes, of Worcester, Mass. awaited a connecting flight back to Massachusetts after arriving on a flight from Aruba.

Rhodes came up to the door and said: "Are you [expletive] sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?" prosecutors alleged. He then allegedly punched the door, which hit the back of Khan's chair, prosecutors said.

Khan asked Rhodes what she did to him, prosecutors said. He replied, "You did nothing but I am going to kick your [expletive] ass," prosecutors said.

Rhodes then allegedly kicked Khan in the right leg, prosecutors said. Khan moved to a corner of the office in an effort to get away, but Rhodes allegedly kicked in the door, stepped into the office and blocked Khan from leaving, prosecutors said.

Someone else came over to the office and tried to calm Rhodes down, and at that point, he moved away from the door, prosecutors said. Khan ran out of the office to the front desk of the lounge, prosecutors said.

But Rhodes allegedly followed her, got onto his knees, and bowed down in a mockery of a Muslim praying, prosecutors said. He allegedly shouted: "[Expletive] Islam, [expletive] ISIS, Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens."

Khan suffered substantial pain and redness in her right leg and was left in fear and alarm, prosecutors said.

When he was arrested, Rhodes allegedly told police: "I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn't tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head."

Rhodes is now facing charges.

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