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Assailant Chokes Muslim San Jose State Student With Victim's Hijab

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A college student says she was attacked while wearing a head scarf at San Jose State University.

It happened Wednesday afternoon inside the West Garage on campus.

The young woman told KPIX 5 that she believes she was assaulted because of her beliefs.

San Jose State University student Esra Altun was ambushed in the garage, located along Fourth Street, on the edge of campus. Someone grabbed by her hijab -- the head scarf she wears and the most visible sign of her Muslim faith.

Altun said, "Because it's wrapped around my neck it started to choke."

She says she never got a good look at her attacker -- who pulled silently on the hijab as it tightened around her neck.

Finally, she says, she lunged forward and managed to free herself.

And while police are not yet investigating the attack as a hate crime, she says she's convinced she was targeted.

"I personally believe it was an attack based on race and religion," Altun said.

Word of the attack spread quickly on campus and some students say they're concerned that the xenophobic, anti-Muslim rhetoric from the presidential campaign may have been a contributing factor.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, SJSU president Mary Papazian says she wants to reassure students that campus safety and tolerance are a priority.

"We care deeply about students' safety. It's impossible to learn and thrive in an environment where you're afraid. And our commitment to you is to insure than we are as vigilante as possible to make this campus safe," Papazian said.

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