New York City police are investigating the firebombing of four sites in Jamaica, Queens, on Sunday night. A small Hindu temple in a house was attacked, as were the Al-Khoei Islamic Center — where about 100 people were worshipping — a bodega owned by a Muslim immigrant from Yemen and a house whose residents said they are Christians. In three out of four of the attacks, a Starbucks Frappuchino bottle was used. A fifth attack with “some characteristics” of the other attacks also occurred in Elmont on Long Island on Sunday night.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and a number of elected officials have condemned the attacks. Said Bloomberg:
“No matter what the motivation was of the individual who threw Molotov cocktails in Queens last night, his actions stand in stark contrast to the New York City of today that we’ve built together.”
Police are investigating the incidents as possible hate crimes, says the New York Daily News. Federal and state authorities are assisting in the investigation.
A security camera installed at the Hindu temple caught footage of the attacker. The New York Times said that police describe the suspect as “a black man 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds and wearing a black jacket and a baseball cap,” and driving a light-colored sedan. One of the sons of Bejai Rai, of the Elmont home that was attacked, said that he had seen a man rush away in a “late model two-door car, either champagne or silver in color.”
The Rais are Hindus from Guyana. As the New York Times notes, the area in Queens — Elmont is just across the border in Nassau County — where the attacks occurred is “one of the more diverse stretches of the city’s most diverse borough”:
Jamaica Avenue and Hillside Avenue, two main thoroughfares, are dotted with halal shops, Latino restaurants, Hindu temples and storefront Christian churches. Once predominantly black, the neighborhood has had influxes of immigrants from many parts of the world, including Guyana, the West Indies, Central America, South Asia, and Arabic-speaking lands.
“Everyone gets along, no problems,” said Salem Ahmed, 38, the owner of the bodega, on Hillside Avenue and 180th Street, that was firebombed about 8 p.m.
Imam Maan Al-Sahlani of the Islamic center said that, since its opening in 1989, it “had had no disputes with anyone.” The center’s main entrance was blackened and charred in the attack and police have increased security; its front gates remained open to the street and its members “emotionally shaken.” Nonetheless, Ah-Sahlani said in Politico:
“This is America, and we must continue to love one another.”
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Photo of Madina Masjid, Islamic Council of America Inc., in Manhattan by Paul Lowry
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