‘They’re going to think you’re from Al Qaeda’: Staten Island tenant claims she was evicted from her home for speaking Arabic

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STATEN ISLAND -- Hasna Jalal, 33, said she came to the United States 10 years ago from Morocco, spent some time in Arizona, and then settled in Staten Island.

A year and a half ago, she had a baby girl.

Now, she says all her furniture is gone, her passport, green card, and jewelry — and she’s blaming it on her former landlady.

Jalal said she rented the third floor apartment on Pompay Avenue in Staten Island from Mary Lou Shanahan back on Sept. 1, 2015. Shanahan is a former chair of the Staten Island Conservative Party.

Jalal said Shanahan apparently took note that Jalal’s mother was wearing a hijab — a head covering often worn by Muslim women — when mother and daughter met the future landlord last summer.

“She said, ‘Do you dress like your mom?’” Jalal quoted Shanahan as asking. “No, I do not,” Jalal said she responded.

Jalal told PIX11 that within a week of moving in, things got tense with her landlady, who owns the Pompay Avenue house and lives on the first floor.

The way Jalal remembered it, she was speaking on the phone with her grandmother in Morocco, when Shanahan came banging on the apartment door.

“She told me I can’t speak Arabic in the house, “ Jalal claimed. “I was scaring the neighbors, they’re going to think you’re from Al Qaeda. They will think you’re a terrorist.”

Jalal said she closed the door on the homeowner and within five minutes, she recalled Shanahan came back and “She said, ‘You know, I don’t think this is going to work out.’”

Jalal said that started a series of increasingly tense encounters, accusing Shanahan, at one point, of “calling me a nasty, Arab pig.”

Jalal said she told Shanahan she would move out, if she could get back two months’ rent and moving expenses. Apparently, that offer wasn’t accepted.

Jalal had friends in the house, and she said Shanahan accused them of being trespassers.

Then, in late September, Jalal got arrested on a complaint filed by the father of her baby, who has custody of the child now.

It was the second arrest related to their ongoing disputes.

Jalal said when she returned home to the apartment on Oct. 4, “Everything was gone.”

Shanahan owns a landscaping and construction business, and Jalal questioned neighbors about anything they noticed going on, during the week she was gone.

One neighbor named Marianna recalled to PIX11, “I had told her that I did indeed see a moving van, and she collapsed on the floor.”

Marianna quoted another neighbor, Angela.

“From what Angela told me, they saw men moving furniture out of the apartment and putting it in landscaping trucks.”

Jalal said NYPD police called to the scene had enough witness testimony to arrest Shanahan for Grand Larceny and Petit Larceny, along with criminal possession of stolen property.

Shanahan spent a night in jail.

Jalal decided to sue, claiming she’s missing $400,000 in designer goods, computers, furniture, and jewelry — not to mention her passport, green card, and Social Security ID.

“My grandmother passed away, I couldn’t go back home,” Jalal sobbed in her lawyer’s office, “because I didn’t have my passport.”

Jalal’s attorney is Nicholas Moccia, who has now filed a federal lawsuit charging religious discrimination. Moccia showed PIX11 a Facebook rant he said was posted by Shanahan about Jalal.

We tried to get an interview with Mary Lou Shanahan, but she didn’t answer her door. We left our business card.

But Shanahan’s team of lawyers is fighting back. One of them, Mark Cappelli, said “I will argue that most of the items she says are missing never existed.”

Investigators for Shanahan said Jalal accused a previous housekeeper of stealing a diamond bracelet.

They pointed to a shoplifting arrest that Jalal had in Arizona in 2012. Jalal said the charge was dismissed and called the case a “misunderstanding.” Jalal said she had a $30 denim jacket in her hand and was talking to her mother on the cell phone, when she absent-mindedly walked out of the store.

Mark Piazza, another attorney for Shanahan, calls Shanahan “…a very nice woman, and these charges are ludicrous. We believe friends of Ms. Jalal moved her items out.”

The case is now going to a special prosecutor based in Brooklyn, because of Mary Lou Shanahan’s political connections on Staten Island.