Statement by Rabbi Marc Schneier, Russell Simmons and Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali
January 2, 2012
The attack on the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Jamaica, Queens on the first day of 2012 highlights the continuing peril confronting Muslim New Yorkers amidst the ongoing wave of incitement and religious bigotry being directed against Islam and Muslims in cities across the U.S. As horrific as was the attack on the Al-Khoei Center, which houses a school in addition to its religious sanctuary, the human cost might have been far worse. The Al Khoei Center was holding a commemoration of its anniversary on the evening it was attacked and 80 people were inside the building when it was hit by what are believed to have been firebombs. Thankfully, none of those inside the building were injured, but the fact that the perpetrator or perpetrators savagely attacked a building filled with worshippers is a sign of how dangerous the current sinister wave of Islamophobia has become to the very life and limb of peaceful American Muslims. Furthermore, the Al Khoei Center unfortunately was not the only target of firebombs, as at least three other locations were attacked.
The three of us unequivocally condemn these heinous hate crimes and stand in full solidarity with the members of the Al-Khoei Center and the others who were targeted. Any attempt to damage or desecrate any house of worship is an attempt to harm all houses of worship; and people of conscience of all faiths must speak out together against such attacks and in support of those who have been victimized.
Just as we came together three years ago to denounce the planned attacks on two synagogues in Riverdale, we are equally as emphatic today in speaking out against the wanton attack on the Al-Khoei Islamic Center. In the face of this evil act, we vow to redouble our efforts as leaders of the Muslim and Jewish communities to combat purveyors of religious bigotry who would threaten the constitutional and God-given right of members of any or all religious communities in New York City to peacefully practice their faiths free of the threat of violence.
In order to protect that sacred right of freedom of worship, we urge the New York City Police Department to increase patrols in front of mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship around New York City where there is a perceived danger of hate crimes. We encourage Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD to demonstrate that they are not only committed to fighting terrorism—as they must be—but will also do everything possible to protect the rights of law-abiding Muslims to practice their faith in peace and security. By stepping up patrols in front of houses of worship, the NYPD can demonstrate that it accords the highest possible priority to combating hate crimes; whether directed against Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or members of any other religious group.
We look forward to the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators of the attack on the Al-Khoei Islamic Center and the other locations, and to the NYPD putting measures into place that will help to prevent these types of crimes from being carried out against any of our houses of worship in the future.
Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons are president and chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Imam Shamsi Ali is spiritual leader of the Jamaica Muslim Center.