U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), state Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights), and Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) joined about 50 members of the Jewish and Bangladeshi communities to thank Hassan Askari, pressing the importance of acting to protect others regardless of their background."This is a very, very beautiful thing for someone to act without regard to race, ethnicity or creed," said Crowley, who also extended Askari an invitation to attend the Jan. 28 State of the Union address in Washington, D.C, which he gladly accepted."Now some people may ask, 'Why make this a big deal?' Well, all too often in our society today more people are inclined not to get involved," the congressman continued as a shy Askari looked on with a slight smile."He stood up that morning to bigotry; he stood up for all mankind to say 'No, I'm not going to tolerate that.'"Askari, hailed as a "Hanukkah hero" in earlier events, was riding the Q train on Dec. 8 at around 11:30 p.m., heading home from work, when four young Jews wished an entourage of 14 people a happy Hanukkah.The group apparently took offense at the greeting and began beating on the four Jewish commuters when Askari tried to intervene by asking them to stop, drawing some blows from the group himself. Askari's move gave one of the victims, Walter Adler, time to pull the train brake. Ten in the attacking group were later arrested and the Brooklyn district attorney's Civil Rights Bureau is handling their cases, the New York Post reported.Adler and Askari have since become friends, with the latter visiting the former's parents and attending his Hanukkah party.Lafayette also lauded Askari for his actions. "You are a prime example of what every community should have," he said, adding that the state Assembly had prepared a citation for the young Brooklyn man.Sabini, who noted that Askari is a relative of his own press aide, said the action had all the elements of a feel-good holiday story."But it's reality, not just a story --it happened," Sabini noted. "It shows that young people still care about humanity."Sears told the crowd that living in a diverse setting "is not without its challenges, and we've had to stand up and meet that," noting that Askari's behavior proves the importance of choosing action over silence.Following the barrage of laudatory comments, Askari himself spoke softly and briefly, saying only that much of what he had intended to say had already been voiced by others.He expressed gratitude for Crowley's State of the Union invitation, about which the congressman jokingly said, "We're hoping a few people can help us and put his head back into the airplane" after the visit.Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@time
©2008 Community News Group
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