Cops make arrest in Kew Gardens Hills mosque stabbing

By Joe Anuta

A Forest Hills man was charged with attempted murder last week for allegedly stabbing a member of a mosque in Kew Gardens Hills while screaming anti-Muslim slurs in November, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Bashir Ahmad was opening the doors of the Masjid Al-Saaliheen Mosque for prayers Nov. 18 at about 4:50 a.m., when Bernhard Laufer, 55, allegedly stabbed him in the back, the DA said.

When Ahmad turned around and put his arms up to defend himself, Laufer allegedly continued stabbing him in the arms, legs and head while spewing anti-Muslim invective, the DA said.

“The defendant is accused of having repeatedly stabbed the victim in a hate-crime attack and to have used hateful speech. Remarkably, the injuries sustained by the victim, though serious, were not fatal,” Brown said in a statement. “Crimes fueled by hate will never be tolerated here in Queens County, the most diverse county in the nation. When they do regrettably occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

In addition to attempted murder as a hate crime, Laufer was also charged with multiple counts of assault and faces between eight and 25 years in prison if convicted, according to the DA.

In the wake of the November attack, a group of religious leaders from various sects and elected officials came together at the mosque, located at 72-55 Kissena Blvd., to denounce the stabbing.

“Let’s not pretend we are all the same,” Dr. Uma Mysorekar, of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, said at the time. “We are different, but let’s respect those differences.”

Ahmad had mixed feelings about the attack, forgiving the attacker in some reports but telling the New York Post “if I ever see him again, I will kill him from 20 feet away.”

Months after the attack on 57-year-old Ahmad, who has recovered from his injuries, the Kissena Boulevard mosque was the site of another bias attack, police said.

On the evening of April 12, another member of Masjid Al-Saaliheen was followed in his car by a dark SUV, police said. When the mosque-goer pulled up to a stoplight at the corner of Union Turnpike and 199th Street, the man in the car flashed a firearm and shouted anti-Muslim slurs, according to the NYPD.

But the second incident only prompted more calls for tolerance and understanding from the community, including Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center and one of the organizers of the November rally.

“It is a good opportunity for the people in the area to show that being different doesn’t necessarily mean living in tension,” Ali told TimesLedger Newspapers after the threat.

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

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