Arab and Muslim Americans denounce brutal Hanukkah attack
Arab and Muslim Americans were quick to express outrage over an attack that injured five people at the home of a Hassidic Rabbi near New York that received international news media coverage. Statements came from across the country and from Arab government representatives.
By Ray Hanania
Arab and Muslim Americans were quick to respond in solidarity with Jewish Americans over a vicious knife attack targeting a Hanukah celebration held at a Hassidic Rabbi’s home in New York on Saturday night.
The attack took place in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in a small town, Monsey, located north of New York City. Five people at the religious celebration were seriously injured including the Rabbi’s son when an African American man, identified as Grafton Thomas, burst into the home wielding a machete. Thomas’ parents said that their son has a history of mental illness and hospitalizations.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a Joint Statement condemning the attack as anti-Semitism, signed by dozens of community leaders declaring “an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us.”
Among those singing the statement were many Arabs and Muslims from New York including Imam Tahir Kukiqi, NYPD Chaplains Unit and Vice President of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, Hussein Rababah, PACE Director, NY Muslim American Society (MAS), Imam Mohammed ElFiki, The Islamic Society of Central New York, Dr. Siddiqur Rahman, President, Jamaica New York Muslim Center, Imam Ajmal Agha of the Islamic Cultural Center of Rochester, Ali Javed, Chairman, Upper Westchester Muslim Society and Nayyar Imam, President, Long Island Muslim Alliance
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) based in Washington D.C., immediately condemned the attack and rise of anti-Semitism in America.
“We condemn this latest act of violence targeting a religious minority and express the solidarity of American Muslims with the Jewish community in New York and nationwide,” Awad said.
“The rise in violent anti-Semitic attacks should be of concern to us all. No member of any religious, ethnic or minority community should be made to feel unsafe in the streets or in their own homes, whether in New York or any other American city.”
Twitter exploded with condemnations of the attack from individual Muslims and Arabs, including one by the Calgary Muslim Women based in New York, who Tweeted, “Strongly condemn #antisemitic attack on peaceful #Hanukkah celebration near #nyc. Ahmadiyya #Muslims stand against global rise of religiously motivated #hate crimes and strive to bring people of all faiths live in harmony with each other.”
The Association of Muslim Police also issued a statement denouncing the attack, stating, “An attack on the Jewish community in New York is an attack on all communities. We stand together with the victims, families, & Jewish community. Faith brings communities together, hate will never prevail.”
Shaadin Maali, the Palestinian communications director for Illinois Congressional Candidate Marie Newman, expressed immediate outrage over the attack, saying on her Facebook Page, “This is pure evil – a crime against all of humanity. I stand with you my Jewish brothers and sisters against hate and bigotry.” Newman is making a second bid to unseat conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski in the heavily Palestinian 3rd Illinois Congressional District.
Arabs and Muslim Americans have been quick to come to the defense of individuals targeted in violent public attacks, regardless of the victims’ religion.
On Friday, the day before the Monsey attack, two Jewish passengers on New York public transportation were attacked when they responded to a fellow passenger’s expression of “Merry Christmas” by saying “Happy Hanukkah.” A Muslim student on the train, identified as Hasan Askari, rushed to the aid of the Jewish victims, New York police said.
Princess Reema int Bandar al-Saud, the Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Washington D.C., issued the following statement:
“We extend our sincere sympathies to the victims of the attack near a synagogue in Monsey, New York. Houses of worship are meant to be a safe refuge. Those who desecrate them by committing violent or hateful acts attack all humanity.”
Despite loud voices from Arabs and Muslims denouncing the attack, Social Media including Twitter was filled with false assertions the attacker was Muslim, and claims that Muslims are “hostile to Jews.”
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations, only a few days earlier published a commentary challenging that criticism.
“There is a false narrative out there that Muslims are inveterately hostile to Jews. In fact, Muslims are speaking out – and acting out – every day in defense of Jews who are under attack,” Schneier wrote in the conservative Jewish Newspaper, The Jerusalem Post.
Schneier was one of several Jewish leaders who attended the “Peace to Prosperity” conference hosted by President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner that was held in Bahrain in June to encourage peace among Palestinians and Israelis.
(A version of this story ran in the Arab News. Click here to read the Arab News Story.)