By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the wake of two anti-Muslim attacks outside Brooklyn mosques, Arab-American leaders are urging members of their community to consult a booklet offering tips on keeping religious institutions safe.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY) first issued “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” in 2013, but Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for CAIR-NY, said the booklet has timely advice.
Speaking at a press conference at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge on July 22, Khalique condemned the shocking incidents. “When a mosque is attacked, it hurts here, in the heart,” she said, pointing to her chest.
Earlier this month, anti-Muslim graffiti was discovered in different locations around Brooklyn, according to Khalique.
CAIR-NY distributed the booklet in response to previous attacks against Muslims. The booklet is designed to be used by mosque officials, Muslim school administrators and other community leaders who are seeking to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities to bias-motivated attacks, according to the organization’s website.
At the press conference, which was called by the Arab-American Association of New York, leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities, along with elected officials and business and civic leaders, denounced the acts of religious intolerance that took over the July 18-20 weekend.
Assailants threw eggs at Muslims arriving at the Tayba Islamic Center at 2165 Coney Island Ave. for Ramadan services on the night of July 18, Arab-American leaders said. The egg throwers also shouted “This is for your Allah,” according to Manaf Abdul, the spokesman for the mosque. An egg struck a 72-year-old man on the left side of his face, Abdul said.
The Brooklyn Paper reported that the assailants were riding in a car bearing Israeli flags and that they were blasting sirens and flashing lights.
The second incident took place during the early morning hours of July 20 as worshipers were praying inside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge at 6807 Fifth Ave.
Dr. Husam Rimawi, president of the society, said at the press conference that a car pulled up in front of the mosque at 4:30 a.m. with flashing lights. Members of the society were unnerved by the incident and believed that the people inside the car were trying to intimidate them, Rimawi said.
The ugly incidents took place during Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar.
The Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating both troubling incidents. No arrests have been made.
The incidents also took place amid rising tensions in the Middle East. The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was escalating when the Brooklyn incidents took place.
“We may not agree on foreign policy issues, but we agree that there is no room for hate,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York.
Sarsour, who moderated the press conference, also said the anti-Muslims attacks “are no reflection on the Jewish community here,” and that Muslims and Jews in Brooklyn live peacefully side by side.
But prejudice exists, said Imam Ayub Abdul-Baqi of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.
“Hate seems to be striving in our city,” he said. “We stand for what is right and what is just. I tell people not to be intimidated.”
Ironically, the mosque incidents took place a week after the Arab-American Association of New York and other organizations started a “Take on Hate” campaign aimed at fighting anti-Muslim prejudice.
“It’s unbelievable that we are here a week later,” Sarsour said, referring to the press conference where anti-Muslims acts were the topic of discussion.