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Officials call on Astoria residents to denounce attack on Muslim-American teen and to provide information on suspects

QNS/Photo by Angela Matua

Three suspects attacked a 19-year-old man in Astoria last week after shouting “Arab” and “ISIS,” and community leaders are asking residents to come forward with any information.

Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides gathered at the intersection of 10th Street and 33rd Road on Friday morning to denounce the attack, saying it was not representative of the beliefs in the diverse neighborhood.

“In this heightened political season where there is toxic rhetoric directed at immigrants of all kinds, directed at Muslim communities, Arab communities, it’s even more important that those of us in good conscience speak out and make sure that this kind of violence is rejected,” Van Bramer said.

On April 30, at approximately 1:20 p.m., a 19-year-old was walking along 10th street when he noticed he was being followed by three suspects. One suspect called him “Arab” and punched him in the face two times.

He pushed the attacker away, and noticed that the second suspect was holding a metal pipe and yelling “ISIS, ISIS.” The third suspect was holding a baseball bat. The suspects ran when they saw a bystander.

Constantinides called the diversity of Astoria “our greatest strength.”

“When someone attacks us and attacks someone for being Arab-American we have to stand strong and let them know that that’s unacceptable in our communities,” he said.

Sadyia Khalique, the director of operations at the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York and an Astoria resident, said that the news of this attack was “heartbreaking.”

“I was heartbroken because that 19-year-old young man could have been my brother,” Khalique said.

She also mentioned another attack that occurred in November 2015, when Astoria store owner Sarker Haque was viciously beaten in his own store by a man who yelled, “I kill Muslims.” Residents rallied behind Haque, creating a Facebook page to coordinate plans to make and deliver signs and to show support by shopping at his store.

Elected officials and residents also held a rally to denounce the attack.

“This repetition of hate attacks is unjust,” Khalique said on Friday. “It’s unfathomable and it’s not wanted in our community. Our community is known for its diversity. Our community is known for its welcomeness. Our community is known for its unity.”

Khalique, along with representatives from the Arab American Support Center and elected officials, encouraged the community to watch the video released by the NYPD and to provide any tips about the identity of the attackers.

“We stand united as a community against hatred, against violence in all of its force and that’s why we’re here to make sure that 19-year-old man knows that this community supports him,” Van Bramer said.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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