Today’s news:

Astoria Islamic Center suffers from anti-Muslim bias attacks

Around 11:30 a.m....

By Jonathan Kay

Until recently the Astoria Islamic Center had been spared entirely from the anti-Muslim sentiment precipitated by the Sept. 11 attacks. But last week the facility for education and prayer experienced its second incident in six weeks.

Around 11:30 a.m. July 17 with school in session, a man entered the building at 18-24 Astoria Blvd., left a leather briefcase by the door and walked out, said teacher Wael Rezk.

Despite the briefcase’s potential for containing dangerous materials, center supervisors opened the case to find a picture of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a document written in a language they could not understand.

Members of the 114th Precinct determined the paper was written in Romanian and filled with insults to Arabs and Gypsies, police said.

Center administrators believe the perpetrator to be the same man who launched the first racial attack on the facility six weeks earlier when a male entered the building and cursed people who were praying, Rezk said.

No one from the 114th Precinct with knowledge of either event could be reached for comment.

One teacher tried to catch the man after he left the briefcase but was unable to get to him, said Mahrous Heiba, the center director.

The center has had no problems with the Romanian community or any other non-Muslim populations as a result of Sept. 11, Rezk said, and center administrators added that they were not concerned about further action against them from the community.

“This is a place for prayer and teaching kids,” Rezk said. “We are not worried.”

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