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A group of bank robbers disguised in Islamic women's garb have hit at least five Philadelphia banks since December, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The robberies have generated worries among government, law enforcement, and the Muslim community. Islamic leaders have offered a $20,000 reward for any information leading to the suspects' capture. Leaders fear the string of robberies will place Muslim women in danger of discrimination and heightened scrutiny.
This isn't the first time Islamic clothing has come under fire due to security concerns.
Previously, bank officials across the country raised worries that Muslim head scarves could be used to conceal identities, Amina Rubin said. Rubin is a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The scarf issue was later resolved after CAIR showed that the attire couldn't hide faces.
Under Pennsylvania law, robbery is a felony. Depending on the circumstances, it can be charged as a first, second, or third degree felony. First degree convictions carry potential sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment. They are given when a robber commits or threatens to commit serious bodily injury to a victim in the course of a robbery.
However, as far as clothes go, the state doesn't currently have any laws that take into account what a suspect wears while committing a robbery.
For the Philadelphia robbers, this means their Muslim women's clothing disguise likely can't be used as a basis for giving them a harsher sentence.
Muslim leaders, on the other hand, have deemed the robberies as hate crimes against the Muslim community.
Police are continuing their search for the Islamic-disguised bank robbers.