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Hindu flags burned in Woodhaven

Photo by Michael Shain
By Gabriel Rom

The Queens Hindu community is on edge as police look for a possible hate-crime suspect who allegedly torched dozens of Hindu flags set up in the front yard of a Woodhaven early Thanksgiving morning. Lawmakers, civic leaders and a national Hindu group strongly condemned the crime.

According to a security video released by the police, the suspect entered the front yard of a house on 80th Street and 89th Avenue around 1:20 a.m. and set fire to around 40 Jhandi flags before fleeing south on 80th Street. There were no injuries.

The suspect is described as an adult male, wearing a three-quarter-length jacket and baseball cap and pulling a medium-size travel bag, police said.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which first reported the crime, said on its Facebook page that the FDNY quickly extinguished the blaze.

“Clearly this is a disturbing act and we’d like the police to find and question this man,” the civic group said.

“The burning of these Hindu flags near someone’s home is an unacceptable act of hatred that our community will not tolerate,” said state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world, and we as a borough should be extremely proud of that. My support is with the family whose culture and beliefs were targeted by this inexplicable crime and I thank the NYPD for not only naming this a hate crime, but for working diligently to ensure those responsible for this act are brought to justice.”

Jhandi flags bear the pictures of different deities and are a common sight around Hindu homes.

“Crimes which target religious expression are hate crimes and should be treated as such,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (D-Ozone Park). “We simply cannot tolerate any form of religious persecution.”

National Hindu community leader Rajan Zed released a statement urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to contact the Queens-area Hindu community to reassure them. According to Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, Hindus across the country have faced an uptick in hate crimes in recent months.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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