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Hate haunts Queens mosque

By Joe Anuta

A prominent figure in the Queens Muslim community called for solidarity in the wake of a second possible hate crime at a Kew Garden Hills mosque last Friday, just five months after a 57-year-old man was stabbed at the same site in an early morning anti-Muslim attack.

“It is a good opportunity for the people in the area to show that being different doesn’t necessarily mean living in tension,” said Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center.

In the latest incident, a man left the Masjid al-Saaliheen mosque, at 72-55 Kissena Blvd., at about 8 p.m. when he noticed someone following his car in a dark SUV, police said.

When the mosque-goer stopped for a red light at the corner of Union Turnpike and 199th Street, the suspect pulled up beside him in an SUV and flashed a firearm while shouting death threats and anti-Muslim statements, according to police. The suspect then fled the scene.

Police released a sketch in connection with the crime, describing the suspect as a mustachioed man in his late 50s with a light complexion and dark hair and wearing a dark suit jacket with an emblem patch on the left pocket. He may have been driving a Toyota SUV.

This was not the mosque’s first brush with violence.

A similar incident happened in November, according to police, when a 57-year-old man was stabbed while he was opening the house of worship.

On Nov. 18, Bashir Amad was preparing Masjid al-Saaliheen for morning prayers at about 5 a.m. when police say he was beaten, bitten and stabbed by a suspect police described as a 6-foot-tall white man between the ages of 35 and 45 weighing 180 pounds.

According to the NYPD, the man also shouted anti-Muslim statements before the ambush.

In the wake of the November attack, religious leaders from across Flushing and city Comptroller John Liu held a news conference to express solidarity and religious tolerance.

Ali helped organize the rally with leaders from Hindu and Jewish organizations in November, and said he hopes Flushing’s diversity will encourage residents to treat each other with respect.

“Muslims might be the victim today, but you don’t know who is going to be the victim the next day,” he said. “We must use the opportunity to build partnerships.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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