Local religious and political leaders gathered in Bay Ridge yesterday in order to address escalating anti-Muslim hate crimes in the area. The conference was called after two separate incidents occurred in one weekend, increasing tension between Israeli and Muslim groups. Both incidents overlapped with the final days of Ramadan.
The first incident occurred on July 18th. Elderly Muslims heading into a Sheepshead Bay mosque on Coney Island Avenue were hit by eggs flung from a passing car. According to the New York Times, the attackers shouted, “This is for your Allah!”
The second incident took place on July 20th, as a car decked out with flashing lights and blaring horns repeatedly circled the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. Those riding inside waved Israeli flags and chanted, “Burn to the ground!” In response, a Muslim worshiper threw a bottle at the vehicle.
According to The Times, the Bay Ridge disturbance is under investigation by the Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, and although no one has been arrested, the belief is that the perpetrators were teenagers. Task Force investigators are also looking into the Sheepshead Bay attack, but no suspects have been identified.
Many attendees at the conference cited the escalating violence in Gaza as the reason behind these local hate crimes, bringing international tensions to Brooklyn streets.
“To be honest, I am a little scared,” Zein Rimawi, one of the Islamic Society's founders told Brooklyn Daily. “I’m afraid next time they will come with something else — a machine gun, a grenade.”
Yesterday's press conference was a public show of unity between the area's Muslim and Jewish organizations. During the meeting, local Orthodox leaders apologized to representatives from the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge.
Lawmakers also expressed their outrage at the incidents. “We will not tolerate the desecration of any type against churches, mosques and synagogues in this city,” State Senator Marty Golden said.
This is not the first time Bay Ridge has seen this sort of tension. While the area is known to be mostly Italian and Irish, there has been a significant increase in both the Asian and Arab populations. This influx can be seen in the local religious institutions as well as the area's stores and restaurants. Aggression between the communities has taken many forms, including some not-so-politically correct anger at Middle Eastern food cart vendors, and some good ol' ostrasizing at a local picnic.
Some conference speakers looked at this meeting as an opportunity to finally address pre-existing tensions in the area.
“We have struggled for the last few years to try to get all religions, all communities represented in a room to talk about how we can build unity in the community, how can we better work together to combat acts of intolerance that we‘ve been seeing widespread,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said.