Queens Muslims, Jews condemn Bronx temple plot

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A Jamaica imam and a Flushing rabbi stood together inside a 168th Street mosque Friday to condemn the foiled plot allegedly crafted by four upstate men — all recent converts to Islam — to bomb two Bronx synagogues.

“Violence in Islam will never be accepted,” Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Center of Jamaica told worshipers at the mosque during Friday afternoon prayers, where he was joined by Rabbi Michael Weisser of the Free Synagogue of Flushing.

James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen — all of upstate Newburgh, N.Y. — were charged in White Plains federal court with plotting to bomb the Riverdale Jewish Center and Riverdale Temple in the Bronx.

Federal authorities said the four men placed what they thought to be live explosives inside the two temples and authorities arrested them after the devices were deployed. The FBI said an informant supplied the men with fake bombs and what the plotters believed was a Stinger missile they planned to use to shoot down a military transport plane at Stewart Airport in Newburgh.

Weisser called the plotters “crazy people” who used Islam as an excuse to justify their alleged intentions.

“Idiots who thought they were gonna bomb synagogues aren’t Muslims,” the rabbi said. “The problem is people think they are.”

Ali and Weisser first met 1 12 years ago at an interfaith conference in New Jersey and have since partnered in various interfaith events held in the borough and beyond. Weisser last spoke to worshippers at the Jamaica mosque when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians flared last year.

“The whole focus of my rabbinical work has been interfaith relations because I believe the labels we put on ourselves are ridiculous,” Weisser said.

Ali said he believed relations between Muslim and Jewish religious leaders will not be broken after details of the foiled plot were unsealed last week.

“I’m sure that this kind of incident will not interrupt our cooperation and unity and brotherhood,” he said. “In fact, it will strengthen it further.”

Weisser said there is more tolerance in Queens than elsewhere because of its demographic makeup.

“The diversity in Queens is so amazing,” he said. “Every time we could point to harmony rather than discord ... then we make the world better.”

Ali noted that the four defendants were recent converts to Islam and suggested they “didn’t study what Islam is about.”

“There must be people who instill this kind of hatred in them,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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