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Brooklyn Muslims mark July 4th protesting attack on teens leaving Ramadan prayers

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New Yorkers said “Happy Fourth of July” and “Eid Mubarak” at about the same time this year, thanks to the predictable lunar cycle. But a less predictable pattern of violence against Muslims marred the last few days of the holy month of Ramadan for Brooklyn Muslims.

This story was originally going to be about the way Brooklyn’s Muslim community celebrates the Fourth of July, but on the holiday reports emerged of two sixteen year old Muslim boys suffering a severe beating at the hands of an assailant who called one a “terrorist” on Sunday night, according to the victims. Unnamed police sources have told local news outlets that the brawl began when the young men started talking to the assailant’s girlfriend.

Despite the allegation of the word “terrorist” coming as part of the attack, the New York Police Department said that the incident was not a hate crime. The decision disturbed some members of the area’s Muslim community, making them feel the police had overlooked their safety. The act of violence against two Muslim youth, who were attending late-night prayers, came after the mosque had repeatedly asked police for more security over late-night hours during Ramadan. Citing a lack of resources, officials told the mosque that they couldn’t spare cops. They hired a security guard to be there from 9 pm to midnight. The attack happened at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

“No one is expecting the NYPD to be there all day,” said Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR New York, a Muslim civil rights advocacy group. She was at the mosque on Tuesday helping advise its members in this difficult time.

“Considering that hate incidents have risen dramatically it helps to have precautionary measures. There were month long services. Where were they? Why wouldn’t you prioritize given the context of what’s happening in our community,”

Nasher is talking about the rise in Islamophobic attacks on American Muslims since the Paris attacks and Donald Trump’s condemnations of Muslims. She feels that the police have not done enough to rule out an anti-Muslim motivation for the July 3 beating.

“We believe that every lead should be followed up on, until the very end,” she said. “They know who he is, the last word we’re getting is he’s being sought after but what has this community frustrated is them making a determination before even a person has been questioned.”

“When Muslims are involved in anything, even though they might not have anything to do with anything Islamic, their motives are investigated to the tiniest degree,” she said.

“How did this make you feel on the Fourth of July?” I asked.

“It’s bad in two ways. You have the Fourth of July, in which we consider ourselves as American as anybody else, and I’m talking to my kids about the past and the forefathers and we’re celebrating history. It’s not just fireworks. It means independence. It means principles. Those principles I idealized so much growing up that whenever anybody within the community would refer to another country as home, I would think ‘What are they talking about. This is where it is.’”

“Here there are principles of justice and fair play. And of course I knew about slavery. But, by the law, we all have a shot here. Equal treatment. Now we’re seeing people seeking high positions are saying otherwise? It’s insane. It makes you feel betrayed as a Muslim American,” she added.

(Photo: Wilson Dizard)

(Photo: Wilson Dizard)

On Tuesday afternoon, community leaders staged a peaceful march through the neighborhood of Bay Ridge, a few blocks south of Sunset Park, where the beating took place, leaving the victims with black eyes and sending them to the hospital. The mosque, the Muslim Community Center at 3rd Ave. and 53rd Street, distinguishes itself in the city by hosting a charity group, Muslims Giving Back, which distributes food to the needy and homeless.

Mohamed Bahe, the mosque director, described an absurd series of negotiations with the NYPD during the month of Ramadan, asking them to post a cop outside while mosque members make their way home late at night in the deserted neighborhood. The local precinct posted an officer outside during the day on Tuesday, the last day of Ramadan before Eid. It was a hot and humid day.

Security stationed outside the mosque. (Photo: Wilson Dizard)

Security stationed outside the mosque. (Photo: Wilson Dizard)

“I feel bad for the guy,” Bahe, from Brooklyn, said of the officer. He’d requested police to be there during the cool of the evening.

I asked him why people should care about attacks on Muslims.

“I mean it’s kind of what goes around comes around. If it happens to other groups, it’ll happen to you. Each group in America went through this.”

The mosque has gotten busier thanks to the start of Muslims Giving Back, a food pantry program that serves free meals on Fridays and Saturdays. Bahe said it has attracted Muslims and non-Muslims, who volunteer together to help the poor.

Bahe lamented the reluctance of mosque members to speak to the press. The shaken victims refuse to tell their side of the story, too.

“They think they’re going to get targeted more, by police,” he said. “But now the NYPD controls the narrative.”

For the mosque’s members and Bahe, the attack cast a shadow over their Fourth of July celebrations. But it was worse for Nadeem Emrech, 51, the father of one of the victims, Ahmed.

“I spent the day in the hospital,” he told Mondoweiss during the march against anti-Muslim hate crimes. Although Emrech says he will move to Canada if Donald Trump wins the election, he doesn’t blame Trump for the assault.

“Every person is responsible for what they do,” he said.

Emrech said that a prison sentence of five or ten years for the attacker would be sufficient for him to consider justice done.

About a hundred people, men, women and children, walked through Bay Ridge denouncing the attack. Bahe told me about it as we finished our interview. The march’s route was just a few blocks away. I was the only representative of the media at the event, and this story might be one of the only accounts of the demonstration.

Zein Rimaoui, director of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, where the march began and ended, said that the Irish and the Italians and the Jews all had all experienced discrimination in their first years as Americans.

“It is the same for us,” he said. “Everybody goes through it.”

But unlike the mid 19th century New York City, the mayor’s office has to figure out what to say about discrimination. Figuring out how to do public relations in this situation is not easy. What can a government official say?

Daniel Abramson, a community affairs officer in the Mayor’s office, was there to figure out just that. Abramson stressed that the mayor, Bill de Blasio, was behind the city’s Muslims.

“New York as an inclusive place, a place where all different communities can feel safe,” Abramson said. “[The mayor] made Eid a holiday for public school students. It’s why I visited at least three mosques during Ramadan. These are wonderful places. They’re places for families. And I learned a lot too. They are as American as New York, as anybody else. Violence is not OK. But it’s especially sad. We want families to feel safe. And that they have a place in New York.”

About Wilson Dizard

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photojournalist covering politics, civil rights, drug policy and everything else. He lives in Brooklyn with his bicycle, camera and drum set.

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14 Responses

  1. just
    just
    July 6, 2016, 12:30 pm

    Thanks for this, Wilson.

    “Zein Rimaoui, director of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, where the march began and ended, said that the Irish and the Italians and the Jews all had all experienced discrimination in their first years as Americans.

    “It is the same for us,” he said. “Everybody goes through it.”

    No excuse @ all. Ever since 911 this discrimination, etc. has been occurring. Comparing nationalities and religions is flawed, too. I appreciate Rimaoui’s intentions, though.

    After Orlando, this happened:

    “Muslim man reportedly beaten outside mosque attended by Orlando gunman

    Council on American-Islamic Relations says attacker, who used racial slurs, caused head trauma and knocked out victim’s tooth at Fort Pierce Islamic Center

    An Islamic civil rights group said on Saturday a Muslim man was beaten outside the Fort Pierce Islamic Center, which the Orlando nightclub gunman, Omar Mateen, had attended. The group said local authorities ignored requests for increased security at the Islamic center, despite numerous threats. …”

    – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/just/#sthash.CqeO14w9.dpuf

    I also posted this that same day:

    Meanwhile:

    “U.S. Gives $20 Million to Jewish, Other Nonprofits for Security Improvements

    The Nonprofit Security Grants Program has already given more than $184 million for security at Jewish institutions over the past decade. …”

    – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/just/#sthash.CqeO14w9.dpuf

  2. Citizen
    Citizen
    July 6, 2016, 12:55 pm

    Lots of Brooklyn Jewish folks living off US & Israeli taxpayers in Israel’s OT. I bet if the parties were reversed the incident would’ve got lots of press. I also bet there would have been more than one NYPD posted at the synagogue. And I bet the NYPD would have investigated extensively, partnering with Homeland Security, FBI, CIA.

    • just
      just
      July 6, 2016, 1:19 pm

      Bingo! And De Blasio would be front and center.

    • annie
      annie
      July 6, 2016, 1:21 pm

      yes, if 2 jewish teens had been attacked outside a synagogue after holiday prayer service it would have made headlines and the ADL would have issued a statement denouncing the racist attack — and deservedly so.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        July 6, 2016, 11:44 pm

        Ditto and being an election year and all, this would have gotten HRC and Drumpf on the bandwagon, decrying an attack like this as ‘acts of terrorism against the Jewish people’ and would of course follow that nonsense up with promises of even more money and weapons of war to the zionist enterprise, to continue to help them in their 70 year quest to find security while living on the land they stole from the people who were living there when they decided to make it theirs.

        Of course neither candidate will denounce this racist attack.

        I imagine there are a lot of unreported crimes like this going on all over the states, where a young Arab American man speaks to a single lady of a non-Arab background and gets a beating for the attempt. The u.s. doesn’t need lehava when it’s had the openly visible, no longer secret terrorist organization called the kkk for 151 years.

      • WH
        WH
        July 7, 2016, 7:09 pm

        And if they had been attacked by a Muslim, there would have been the usual calls for Muslim leaders to condemn violence and work harder to promote tolerance. Who is being called upon to condemn this?

  3. Brooklyn
    Brooklyn
    July 12, 2016, 2:02 pm

    As a former Brooklyn resident (up until 3 months ago) – where I lived was primarily Jewish. Actually – the Jewish community where I lived has probably quadrupled in the last 10 years due to the Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli Jewish influx/occupation. Anyway – ALL of the SYNAGOGUES along Ocean Parkway to Ocean Avenue and from Church Avenue to Avenue Z – from Friday night through Saturday night have full NYPD surveillance. ALL OF THEM. Some are marked NYPD vehicles but most are undercover/unmarked vehicles. They don’t have to pay extra $$$$ for private security. It is paid for by the fine NYC taxpayers. This is BULLCRAP! Happy to not have to foot the bill anymore for this – but deeply disturbed by the continued mistreatment of my fellow Muslims and the way one group continually gets to classify any small crime as “hate” while real hate crimes are just ignored.

    • Shmuel
      Shmuel
      July 12, 2016, 2:48 pm

      Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli Jewish influx/occupation

      Brooklyn,

      Do you consider all immigrants “occupiers”, or only these particular groups? Btw, I believe the Syrian Jewish presence in Brooklyn is a lot older than you suggest (e.g. the Magen David Synagogue on 67th Street was built in 1921).

      • gamal
        gamal
        July 12, 2016, 3:11 pm

        “(e.g. the Magen David Synagogue on 67th Street was built in 1921).”

        that is 1921 BC?

        sorry 67th street got me excited, reminded me not to be so small minded, alcohol is excellent for expanding the Pranja that’s from Marpa no less as per

        Tzava’at Harivash 67

        Sometimes a person worships in a state of katnut (“smallness;” limited or restricted consciousness): 1 he does not enter the supernal worlds at all. His thought, however, is directed to [the fact that] “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3), and that he is close to [God]. 2 In that state he is like a child whose mind is but slight and not yet developed. Nonetheless, though worshipping on a level of katnut, he does so with great deveikut. 3

        http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/145487/jewish/Tzavaat-Harivash-67.htm

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        July 12, 2016, 3:31 pm

        that is 1921 BC? … alcohol is excellent for expanding the Pranja

        I’m not sure, but if you hop by Ocean Parkway, I’m sure you’ll find some Halabim who would be more than happy to discuss it over a bottle of arak.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        July 12, 2016, 3:55 pm

        Funny you should mention Rivash and expanding consciousness. He was, apparently, a rather passionate pipe-smoker, and legend has it that the bowl did not always contain tobacco.

      • Brooklyn
        Brooklyn
        July 12, 2016, 4:32 pm

        Well Shmuel – where I lived in particular – they are all new Arab Jews – the ones that starting about 10 years ago started coming in paid for by the freebies of our government. I am not referring to the ones that live between McDonald Avenue/Ocean Parkway who have been here for 15+years. And by occupier – I do not mean for all immigrants – and definitely not all Jewish – only those 3 mentioned. The ones that are buying up every single house from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Avenue and making it so others can’t buy/afford to live there.

        It is only this particular group (the very new Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli) that has made other long time residents in this particular neighborhood feel unwelcome – when they themselves are the newcomers. They give long time residents nasty looks when we walk in the neighborhood like we don’t belong (and this is from adults and the children) – and in particular they give the nasty looks to Muslims. At Kelly Park – they treat us as if we are coming into their private backyards unwelcome. The Chinese immigrants in the neighborhood don’t do that. The other immigrants and other long term American Jewish residents don’t do that. It is only the new Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli’s that do that.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        July 12, 2016, 4:49 pm

        Sorry Brooklyn, but I’ve heard the same kind of generalisations about nearly every immigrant group I’ve ever come across — and many non-immigrant groups . I’ve never lived in Brooklyn (although some of my nearest and dearest have), but have lived in three different countries — in two of them as an immigrant myself (albeit a “cleverly” disguised and privileged one). Words like “invasion” and “occupation” tend to come up a lot.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        July 12, 2016, 5:12 pm

        “They give long time residents nasty looks when we walk in the neighborhood like we don’t belong”

        Probably just adopting the local customs.

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