Community meets with NYPD after wave of hate crimes

Sarker Haque holds a bouquet of flowers given to him by a resident of the Steinway neighborhood in Astoria.
Photo by Bill Parry
By Sadef Ali Kully

Almost a hundred community members from Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds met at the Bosnian Community Center in Richmond Hill Wednesday night to discuss issues surrounding the recent wave of hate crimes against religious minorities across the city.

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, Calif., and the anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 presidential campaign by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, a series of assaults against Muslims and other minorities have taken place across the country.

In Queens, the most recent attacks was against a Muslim man, Sarker Haque, a grocery clerk at Fatima Food Mart in Astoria, where a Florida suspect beat him while allegedly saying, “I’ll kill Muslims,”according to police.

In Woodhaven, an unknown assailant burned down Hindu flags outside of a Hindu family’s home, and the NYPD still is looking for information in connection with the incident.

At the Bosnian Center, the NYPD Hate Crime Unit along with 102nd Precinct Capt. Thomas Molly and 106th Precinct Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff educated residents from across the borough on what constitutes a hate crime and what to do when a person becomes the victim. The mosque is on the corner of 114th Street and 91st Avenue.

“It isn’t enough to say that it is a hate crime. Detectives have to find the motivation behind the crime,” NYPD Hate Crime Unit Sgt. Patrick Rodrigo said. “It can make the process very difficult.”

Many worried about their children, young and older, and how to deal with harassment rather than waiting for an actual crime to take place.

“If you do have repeated harassment, an order of protection can help,” Schiff said. “Should the perp violate the order of protection, then he can be arrested.”

Rodrigo explained that hate speech plus a true threat equaled criminality.

“If someone is making a threat and has a weapon in their hand like a pipe, then it becomes criminal,” he said.

But he cautioned that cursing a person because of their religion, race or for any other reason does not constitute a crime.

According to the NYPD, there has been a 43 percent decrease in hate crimes across the city in the past year. The highest number of 97 was in 2001, the same year as the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center. Last year the second highest number of hate crimes were recorded, a total of 23, across the city since 2001.

This year the total number of hate crimes is 13, according to the most recent data from the NYPD.

Borough President Community Liaison Mohammad Hack, who organized the interfaith safety and security discussion, said many victims did not report crimes and the community needed to understand there are resources and people in place to help them.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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