BY JON CRONIN
In the wake of the burning of 40 Hindu jhandi flags at a home in Woodhaven, a rally was organized to stand with the victims and in a statement of solidarity proclaimed, we are one.
The Narine family, whose flags were burned stated what they wanted was understanding, “We want to build dialogue and trust to help the racism disappear. We have it in our hearts to forgive.”
The rally was organized by Aminta Kilawan, a founder member of Sadhana, an organization that is meant to be, “a coalition of Hindus in the United States and around the world wanting to assert a progressive Hindu voice into the public discourse of our times.” At the beginning of the meeting, Kilawan led a moment of silence over the group that formed in honor of all those across the globe who have suffered a hate crime.
Public Advocate Letitia James stated at the beginning of the rally, “Our City belongs to all New Yorkers regardless of which religion they adhere to or whether they affiliate with any religion at all. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist – all should feel safe in their City and their community. But unfortunately, we know that hate is still alive and well in 2015. I have been at too many rallies and press conferences like these condemning senseless hate and bigorty. And every day, it seems our country and our world are witness to more and more massacres of hate. From right here in Queens to San Bernardino to Paris and Beirut. It’s enough to make you want to give up.” James then recalled an optimistic quote from Mahatma Ghandi, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always.”
Naheed Bahram, of the Flushing Interfaith Council and Women for Afghan Women said, “unfortunately this year has been the worst when it comes to hate crimes,” but she adds, “I hope this kind of gathering, where we are all of different faiths and different cultures show we are one.”
Imam Safraz, of Masjid al Abidin in Richmond Hill, said, “It has always been my belief that religion can bring us closer together, it is not supposed to divide us.” He noted that when things like this happen, “Each one of us standing here has to voice our concern,” believing if we do so it will create a brighter safer community for the next generation.
Reverend Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, founding member of the Interfaith Center of New York said, “We have to make the ones who don’t understand…that we will not be separated.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said, “I am truly outraged against our friends in the Hindu community.” He noted that recently the Hindus celebrated Diwali, and, “We talk about light overcoming darkness. Tonight we have shined a light into this community in the darkness of winter. We will not accept any type of religious persecution against any individual no matter where they come from no matter what religion they practice.”
“The act of coward is not going to be tolerated here,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said. He was the first to put up $500 leading to the arrest, indictment and conviction of the perpetrator. Miller added, “I’m hoping that will get some information. Throughout the rest of the evening the politicians in attendance and local civic organizations all contributed to the award adding up to approximately $4,500.
Woodhaven’s U.S. Rep Nydia Valasquez (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) added, “Our community will not be broken and will not be defined by violence or hatred.”
State Sen. James Sanders (D-Far Rockaway) spoke directly to the perpetrator, “To those punks who thought they could divide us. Tonight you have your answer. We are one.” He added, “People want to know what America looks like. This is it. Look around.”
Talking to the perpetrator, he said, “Whether you know it or not, you did the bidding of ISIS.” He implored him that he just go and join ISIS, because, “We stand in an America that is an America for everybody.” He added, “I served in the Marine Corp so people could have any religion that they wanted to no religion at all.”
Sanders said to the perp, “You thought you could destroy the prayers of these Hindus by burning their flags, my friend, you’re making their prayers a reality, if they prayed for unity of people then they got it.”
Kenrick Ross, Executive Director, Indo-Caribbean Alliance, said the reason this person , “committed this hate is because they don’t see the value in our culture. They don’t see the value in our values.”
“We have to make sure all of us are comfortable to create an environment of respect and tolerance and that is the only way we’ll live together,” he concluded.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin