Imam beaten by two thugs on subway

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Two men, one of them a Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority worker, are accused of assaulting and robbing a man in a Manhattan subway station in what the Manhattan district attorney’s office said was an anti-Muslim bias attack.

The New York Post reported the victim was a 49-year-old Woodside imam named Rod Peterson.

The incident occurred at 3:25 a.m. Dec. 8, according to the Manhattan DA. Albert Melendez, a 30-year-old Manhattan resident, was on the A train going northbound at the Canal Street station with Peterson, the DA said.

The DA reported that Melendez said to Peterson, “What are you, a camel jockey? I don’t like Muslims.”

Afterward, Melendez attempted to kick Peterson as Peterson left the train, the DA said. On the platform, Melendez grabbed Peterson and a struggle ensued, in which Peterson forced Melendez to the ground, the DA said. At this time, Eddie Crespo, 28, of Staten Island allegedly pulled Peterson away, allowing Melendez to stand up, the DA said. Melendez then allegedly took off Peterson’s kufi — an African head covering — and threw it onto the subway tracks, the DA said.

“You know, I really don’t like Muslims,” Melendez said as he did it, according to the DA.

Melendez then punched Peterson in the face, bruising his left eye and causing it to swell and hurt, the DA said.

Melendez and Crespo were charged with robbery as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime, the DA said.

The city Department of Corrections’ website said Melendez was being held on $25,000 cash bail and bond, and Crespo was being held on $7,500 cash bail or $20,000 bond.

Arnold Keith, Crespo’s lawyer, said Crespo was a Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority Worker. Keith had no further comment on the case.

The attack drew a sharp response from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Council members Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

“We condemn this hateful act committed against one of our city’s Muslim leaders,” the council members said in a joint statement. “We urge all New Yorkers to band together during the holiday season and to embrace our differences and denounce this cowardly act of violence. Our great city is built on tolerance of different beliefs.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:18 pm, October 10, 2011
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