The FBI report on the recent uptick in hate crimes has Queens elected officials on edge with incidents in Queens and across the city coming to the forefront of public attention. Crimes are up 7 percent against minorities, and those targeting Muslims are up 67 percent nationwide, according to the federal agency.
Public Advocate Letitia James, City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and members of the Muslim, Sikh and Jewish communities addressed a news conference on the front steps of Martin Van Buren High School at 230-17 Hillside Ave. to call on President-elect Donald Trump to denounce the recent series of discrimination that has swept the nation.
Trump’s “60 Minutes” interview in which he ordered people to “Stop” engaging in bias incidents was a good start to calling for an end to harassment, according to James. But she said more action will be required to put an end to the ugliness that came out of the election.
“Now is the time for you to demonstrate leadership, and I urge you to take to the media at this point in time and to talk about healing our nation and bring us back together,” James said. “This country and this city has experienced a surge in acts in acts of hate and bias, and it’s following the most divisive election in modern history and tensions are boiling over. It will not be tolerated in our beloved city. We will respond as we have done, whenever necessary against acts of hate by showing solidarity, love, compassion and understanding.”
On Nov. 10, Bellerose resident Fariha Nizam took her grievances to Facebook after a middle-aged couple harassed her about the hijab she was wearing on a Q43 bus during a commute to her internship in Manhattan. The couple were led to believe that Muslims are no longer allowed to wear traditional garb following the election.
Nizam’s aunt, Mazeda Uddin of the South Asian Fund for Education and Scholarship Training, spoke on behalf of her niece who prepared a statement.
“I dare someone to tell me that this is simply a coincidental event,” Nizam said. “I dare someone to tell me that the route that I have taken for so many years without a single incident happened to contain a couple of violent, hateful bigots simply because of bad luck. Donald Trump did this to me, he did this to each and every minority group that I have been holding in my prayers.”
Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said he learned vital lessons from the Nazi Holocaust survivor himself about bigotry.
“Even though hate may begin targeted at one group–in the case of the Holocaust, the Jews–it did not end there. There were other victims of the Nazis during that period, and as we see today, many different groups of people in New York and in the United States are facing these issues head-on,” Weitzman said. “As [Weisenthal] also pointed out, what encourages people to commit those crimes is the passivity and the lack of action of the bystanders. We need to hold our elected officials accountable, but we also need to start looking at ourselves.”
Weprin told the crowd that Queens is the most diverse county in the country, which is a benefit to people who raise families in the borough where Donald Trump grew up at 85-15 Wareham Place in Jamaica Estates. He added that although only certain groups have been targeted, it feels as though all Americans are under attack. Weprin also referred to an incident which happened on a city bus involving a group of girls from St. Francis Preparatory School telling a minority commuter to sit at the back of the bus after the Trump victory.
Grodenchik organized the Wednesday conference to show support for the community and said he had full confidence in NYPD to keep the peace.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall