Political leaders, community activists and Muslims across the metropolitan area offered their solidarity to members of Masjid Faizan-e-Aisha in Hicksville, after a recent act of vandalism at the mosque had shaken many congregants.
"When acts of hate — like happened here — occur, it is incumbent upon all of us in Nassau County, no matter where we're from or where we pray, to stand up, call it out as hatred … and say we won't stand for this," State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) told some 200 congregants and others gathered outside the mosque after Friday prayers.
"When someone throws excrement at your masjid, that's throwing excrement at my synagogue, and at the church down the street," Kaminsky said. "It must be treated all as the same."
Kaminsky, who is running for Nassau County district attorney, added, "hatred that used to be in the shadows now wants to come out into the light. We must all push it back into the shadows."
State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), who wore a scarf as a hijab — out of respect for the community, she said later in an interview — told the crowd, "First and foremost, we have your back. I am really privileged to represent people from all walks of life, different ethnicity, different religions and different backgrounds."
In an interview, Kaplan, who fled Iran as a child to escape potential violence against Jews, said, "I do believe we are children of the same God … and I want them to know that I'm a proud representer of them. … I'm here as their public servant. I'm here to say an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, which also sparked anti-Muslim sentiment, Mohamed Nahshal, a Masjid community member, said in an interview that Friday's news conference was an attempt at "reconciliation. We want our community to speak up. There's pain — two decades of over-policing, over-criminalization" of Muslims. "We're hoping today we're going to heal some of the wounds."
The vandalism in August, in which video showed a man shoveling garbage containing human waste onto mosque property, had shaken members, leading them to engage a "muslim community patrol" from a mosque in Brooklyn, Nahshal said. The patrol had a car at the masjid Friday.
Nahshal said a private investigator the mosque had hired had identified a potential suspect, and that information was turned over to Nassau County police, who have been investigating the vandalism incident as a bias crime.
Saeed Hassan a community activist from Bellmore and a Muslim, said bias acts against Muslims had brought Muslims together. But it was also an opportunity to let the larger community know more about Muslims.
"I think the more we meet, the more we talk, the more we are in the newspaper, we strengthen each other," Hassan said.