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Lee Rd. business owner assaulted, community is outraged

Felicia Haney | 5/14/2014, 9:28 a.m.

Angered community members gathered at one of Cleveland’s well-known restaurants on the East Side recently to express their outrage over the malicious attack of 76-year-old business owner Rafia Khateeb, more affectionately known as Sister Rafia. Khateeb’s businesses - The Nile Valley Restaurant and The Islamic Bookstore - located side-by-side on Lee Road, lie on the Shaker Heights Cleveland border and have been staples in the community for decades.

Khateeb and her late husband Shariff owned the businesses together, which stood as pillars in the community dating back to the early 1990s. Khateeb had become quite comfortable in her surroundings and has continued to run the businesses since her husband’s death. Everyone in the community knows Khateeb and looks out for her. But, one night after closing hours, Khateeb locked up alone and headed to her car. That’s when reportedly a Black male, in his late 30s to early 40s, appeared and brutally attacked her in an effort of attempted robbery. As seen on surveillance video, community activist Khalid Samad said he watched the recording of the perpetrator who grabbed Khateeb before striking her in the face with his pistol and dragging her down an alley and then some stairs. “He struck her several times,” said Samad. “It seemed as if he was attempting to take the car but something startled him. Whatever it was, it made him drop the keys and the sister’s [Khateeb’s] cell phone and take off running.”

Khateeb, a slender-framed senior woman was left lying on the ground and her assailant made off with nothing. The suspect is still at large. Police have issued a composite drawing of the suspect based off Khateeb’s description paired with what was seen on video.

At an intimate rally hosted by Samad inside The Nile Valley restaurant to bring awareness to the situation and educate the community on the fact that the suspect is still at large, community members spoke out against the injustice done to Khateeb and other crimes taking place of this nature in Black neighborhoods. Longtime activist and former East Cleveland Public Library board member Norma Freeman expressed her concerns for what’s happening in the community and gave an alternate look at the situation at hand.

“The economic gap is widening between the 1% and everyone else,” Freeman said. “It’s easy to tell people what they should and should not do, but when there’s so much deprivation in the land of the plenty, you get the reality of a 40-something-year-old man doing whatever to survive. I’m not giving him a pass, but we don’t know if he has children or what. A desperate person takes desperate measures. I have children; and I would do WHATEVER to feed my children... Even people with consciousness want to live like the oppressor. But, you can’t do that. When you do that, you spend time trying to maintain that and not maintaining your people.”

Samad had more of a zero tolerance when addressing the situation. “They get no sympathy,” Samad said. “We take the same position as Malcolm X in the way of thinking that the worst criminals are the ones who prey on women, children and the elderly. They have to be dealt with accordingly. What’s going on in our communities is an epidemic worse than anyone wants to admit. It’s a systematic problem. And there are all these justifications being brought forth as to why. These people aren’t products of the crack era; it’s the white folks that are doing the heroin. So what’s the excuse? They get no sympathy. It’s time to organize, mobilize and optimize.” Samad also uttered his discernment about the lack of young people who showed up for the rally. “Where are all the under 40 individuals?” he asked.

If you have any tips about the assault that took place at The Nile Valley restaurant, please contact the Shaker Heights Police Department at 216.491.1220.