Public forum empowers Bronx Muslims

Public forum empowers Bronx Muslims
District Attorney Clark (front, c) gave opening remarks as Elvin Garcia (front, l), Mayor’s office South Bronx borough director; (back, l-r) Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D., Mayor’s office senior Muslim advisor; Sergeant Lonergan, NYPD Hate Crime Task Force; Inspector Pirchado, 43rd Precinct commanding officer; Sapna Raj of NYC Human Rights Commission; Marian Taylor-Martinez, NYC Department of Education family leadership coordinator and others listened attentively.
Photo by Edwin Soto

A public forum was held to empower Bronx Muslims to persevere against fear and discrimination.

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and Mayor de Blasio co-sponsored a public safety meeting for the Bronx Muslim community on Monday, August 15 at M.S. 127’s auditorium on 1560 Purdy Street.

NYPD and city officials met with local Muslims to discuss public safety and human rights, reporting discriminatory incidents, provide a directory of city services and listen to their input on improving services.

Assemblyman Sepulveda, District Attorney Darcel Clark and Councilwoman Annabel Palma were keynote speakers.

Panelists included Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Mayor de Blasio’s senior Muslim advisor; Sapna Raj from NYC Commission on Human Rights; sergeant Lonergan from NYPD Hate Crimes Unit; inspector Fausto Pichardo, 43rd Precinct commanding officer and Marian Taylor-Martinez, NYC Department of Education family leadership coordinator.

The forum was in response to an anti-Muslim hate crime that targeted Bengali Mujibur Rahman on Friday, January 15 by two male teens, ages 14 and 15, who allegedly shouted ‘ISIS’ while pummeling him.

Coincidentally, the meeting came two days after a Queens mosque imam, Maulama Akonjee, 55, and mosque assistant Thara Uddin, 65, were murdered at Liberty Avenue and 79th Street in Ozone Park and ten days after 49-year-old Muhammad Ali Haider was assaulted on Westchester Square.

A NYPD spokeswoman said, Andrews Hernandez, 20, of 28 Metropolitan Oval, allegedly attacked Haider as he walked with his girlfriend in front of 1570 Overing Street on Friday, August 5 at 10:38 p.m.

Another man and two women were with Hernandez when he punched Haider in the face causing him to fall to the ground, according to the police report.

Haider was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center in critical condition with multiple facial fractures.

Haider’s girlfriend was left unharmed, however he remains hospitalized following surgery.

The 45th Precinct arrested Hernandez on Sunday, August 7 and charged him with assault in the second degree.

Hernandez’s companions were not charged because the were not aware of his intentions.

Hernandez, who had no prior arrests, was intoxicated at the time, so the assault was not ruled as a hate crime.

Sepulveda explained most crimes against Muslim and Bangladeshi communities go unreported due to language barriers and cultural fear of authority.

“People should be able to practice their religion without fear of retribution or persecution,” he expressed.

Dr. Sayeed said the NYPD has increased its outreach with Muslims and has stationed patrols outside of mosques during services.

Sepulveda said Muslim and Bangladeshi residents are interested in creating a neighborhood patrol similar to Morris Park Community Association’s Civilian Patrol, to work closely with the 43rd Precinct.

The forum was co-sponsored by Sepulveda’s office, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, NYC Human Rights Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, 43rd Precinct Community Council, Bangladeshi American Community Council, Bangladeshi American National Democratic Society, Peace December/Islamic Leadership School and Sapna NYC.

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