March 15 was supposed to be a joyous date for the members of the Jamaica Muslim Center, as they were honored with a street-renaming ceremony — but the murder of 49 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, hours earlier cast a pall over what should have been a community celebration.
In light of the horrific terrorist attack, police presence was heavy outside the JMC (also known as Masjid Al-Mamoor), located at 85-37 168th St., as hundreds gathered for Friday afternoon prayers honoring the victims before unveiling the signage bearing “JMC Way” on 168th Street from Highland Avenue to Gothic Drive.
JMC members were joined by local elected officials, residents, and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, as Councilman Rory Lancman presented the street sign to Monjur Chowdhury, general secretary of the Jamaica Muslim Center.
The New York City Council passed the street co-naming resolution, introduced by Lancman for JMC Way in December 2018.
“The Muslim community here in Queens and the United States is here to stay,” said Lancman. “Their accomplishments and achievements are going to be permanently recognized by this street that everybody who drives down this street (JMC Way) is going to see the respect and affection that all of New York has for the Jamaica Muslim Center, its leaders, congregants and the entire Muslim community.”
The lawmaker acknowledged the horror in New Zealand earlier in the day — and made clear that New Yorkers would support the Muslim community in their time of grief.
“I grieve with you. I mourn with you,” he said. “I share in your horror this particular moment and I assure you that we will remain friends, brothers, sisters and fellow New Yorkers forever more.”
One suspect, an Australian national, has been charged with murder after storming into two mosques Friday morning, and two others are in custody, CBS News reported. A video of the attack — live-streamed on Facebook — shows the gunman taking aim with assault-style rifles painted with symbols and quotes used widely by the white supremacist movement online.
Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Jamaica Muslim Center, condemned the New Zealand mosque attack before expressing gratitude to New York City officials working to keep the community safe.
“JMC is the way to paradise,” said Rahman. “We are peace-loving people and no matter what kind of psychopath is over there or what kind of terrorist is there, we are all together, and together we can eliminate this kind of terrorism in any religion.”
According to NYPD Chief of Community Affairs Bureau Nilda Hofmann, police officers were sent to mosques and other locations across the city to directly connect and comfort the Muslim community.
“Our mission and message is clear, that we are here and will provide protection and safety,” said Hoffman. “The NYPD is here to work with the community and that we will reassure people how seriously we take the obligation to answer questions, provide information, and let them know we stand with them … we will not let fear and violence intimidate us and trample our values.”
Additionally, O’Neill said that the NYPD have increased patrols in high visibility counter-terrorism residences and locations, and will provide as much assistance as they can to New Zealand law enforcement in investigating the massacre and deterring other threats.
Syed Muzaffar, chairman of the JMC Board of Trustees, said JMC Way reflects what the religion of Islam teaches, which is peace and harmony.
“Our community members in this area, they had a very positive impact and that’s the beauty of this community now … there are hardly any crimes and we are living in peace and harmony with other non-Muslims, and they have been living with us in a harmonious way,” said Muzaffar.
The Jamaica Muslim Center is the second mosque in the southeast Queens area to be honored with a street co-naming ceremony. In September 2018, Bait-Uz-Zafar Mosque, located at 188-15 McLaughlin Ave. in Hollis, celebrated the co-naming of 85th Road that says “Ahmadiyya Way.”