Queens on edge after Middle East uprisings

The recent turmoil in the Middle East have many Queens residents from the region asking why the violence reached such a high level, and when will it end.

Astoria has become home to many of Middle Eastern descent. And news of the four Americans killed in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador, hit hard.

“Those people who killed the ambassador, they need to be held responsible,” said Mustafa Elqaadiri.

Elqaadiri believes that those who took the four American lives did not act in accordance with his own, and presumably the killers’, Muslim faith.

“Our religion doesn’t say we should kill people. The people who made the movie [“Innocence of Muslims”] did something bad, talking about prophet Muhammad. We love Muhammad, but we don’t like the killings,” he said.

Since the incident in Libya, protests have erupted all over the Middle East in countries such as Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt.

In Cairo, protesters scaled the U.S. Embassy walls and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.

Yara Kassen came to Queens seven years ago from Egypt. She resides in Ridgewood, and works at an Islam clothing boutique in Astoria.

The raging protests have left Kassen scared.

“I don’t agree with what happened over there. These people, they’re not thinking,” she said.

The violence has not only affected locals sharing the same roots, it has reached the classrooms as well.

St. John’s University’s professor Dr. Emily Burnham is using the incident to spark discussion among students in her Introduction to Islam course.

“There’s so much happening,” she said.

Regarding the protests, Burnham attempts to see the acts from the mind of the protesters.

“There are definitely people that are there for more political reasons, and to demonstrate the voice of the people. Religious sensibilities have been offended,” said Burnham.

“The role of religion and topics of religion are governed by a different set of values [than in America], and freedom of speech takes a back seat to issues of respect and of protection — defense of a very valued tradition,” she added.

Although she was surprised and saw no sense in the killings, going onward she trusts American embassies will receive the protection they need.

However, despite a general disapproval of the violence, nobody can condone the message of the infamous anti-Muslim film, which allegedly claims Muhammad is a fraud and a womanizer, among other things.

Burnham recently watched the 13-minute movie on YouTube, attempting to prepare for her class’ discussion.

“I was really surprised at what I saw, really surprised at how obvious and powerful the intent to offend was,” said Burnham of “Innocence of Muslims.”

“I can’t agree with the movie, but I also can’t agree with what’s happening,” echoed Kassen.


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