A now-viral online campaign encouraging attacks on Muslims seems to have inspired more love than hate in Brooklyn.
On Monday, April 2, Borough President Eric Adams joined members of the New York City Police Department’s Muslim Officers Society, colleagues in government and constituents at the Pakistani American Youth Society in Ditmas Park to denounce the hateful online campaign that was spread during the month of March and discuss the NYPD’s plans to keep Muslim-Americans safe on Tuesday, April 3 – a day the circular making its rounds online had dubbed “Punish A Muslim Day.”
The letter – which began circulating in the mail, physically, throughout the United Kingdom but quickly made its way to the states via social media – calls for violence against Muslims today and proposes “rewards” in the form of points for acts ranging from verbal abuse and assault to murder and bombings.
Adams, a 22-year veteran of the force, addressed community concerns and highlighted the significance of a Brooklyn united, especially in times of hate.
“We need to be clear,” he told those inside of 1001 Newkirk Avenue, an area known to many as Little Pakistan. “Some will look at this as being a hoax. We do not see it as being a hoax. Any time you take the time to create a letter, place it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, address the envelope and mail it to individual people, that is not a simple act. That’s a premeditated action, and the goal is to create terror.”
Brooklyn, and the rest of the United States, Adams said, “will not stand by and allow” such a letter (which he said “horrified” him) to be “pervasive.”
The beep also recalled the trying times Muslim-Americans experienced after 9/11 and the brave Muslim-American NYPD officers who – while protecting their city – had family members facing assault and various forms of hatred at home. “We will not let that happen again,” Adams said to a crowded room, many of them members of the Muslim Officers Society, the nation’s first fraternal organization representing Muslim-American police officers.
Adams was not alone on Monday. Elected officials and stakeholders from all five boroughs joined the pol in his pledge to increase police surveillance in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods and mosques.
“2,500 points to nuke Mecca, 250 points to torture a Muslim, 500 points to butcher a Muslim with a gun, knife, vehicle or otherwise,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “There is nothing that is a joke about that. Those are serious things in any time that are exponentially more serious in the time that we are in now where people are doing their best to use the small differences among us to divide us.”
Locally, Councilmember Justin Brannan (whose district includes one of the largest and longest-standing Arab-American, Muslim and Palestinian communities in the country) blasted the flyer on Facebook. “As a human being, I take matters like this very seriously. And as an elected official who proudly represents the center of the city’s largest Arab Muslim community, I take matters like this very seriously,” he wrote, noting that, since first seeing the flyer earlier in the month, he had been working closely with NYPD Intelligence to ensure safety not just in his district but citywide.
“Let’s be very clear: Hate has no place here,” he went on. “Hate crimes, discrimination, and any act – violent or otherwise – that threatens our ideals will not be tolerated. If you are looking to foment hate, you’re in the wrong place.This is New York City. We stick up for each other. We look out for each other.”
Brannan wasn’t the only one from the 43rd District fighting back against the flyer. On Saturday, March 30, a group of local residents met at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, 6807 Fifth Avenue, to hand out flowers to Muslim neighbors and show signs of support in response to the anti-Muslim campaign.
“I consider myself involved in my community. My kids go to the local playground. We’ve met and had fun with so many different people there, and really everywhere in Bay Ridge,” said Dyker Heights native and Ridge resident Kristen Pettit who organized the meet-up via the Bay Ridge Parents Facebook group. “Seeing this flyer, I felt sick. I had to let our Muslim neighbors know that they are valued and cared for.”
The response, she said, was overwhelming.
“We had about 15 people in all,” Pettit told this paper, adding that, “at first, folks were a bit wary.”
“As New Yorkers, we’re not used to kindness without an ask — sign this petition, join this church, save the animals,” she went on. “But we just said, ‘Happy spring and thank you for being our neighbor.’ Folks smiled. We gave out at least four dozen flowers, and some people ran to a deli for more.”
About 15 minutes in, a man brought the group doughnuts which were also handed out.
“We got hugs and thank yous,” Pettit said. “It was a small gesture, but one I thought I would appreciate if it was made for me — and that was kind of the idea.”
Signs read “No one deserves to live in fear,” “Hello neighbor” and “Bay Ridge [Loves] All.”
As for today, the NYPD is urging New Yorkers to remain vigilant.
“I am very upset when people keep using the word tolerance,” added Mohammad Razvi, executive director the Council of Peoples Organization at the Monday presser. “I don’t want people to tolerate me and my religion. I want them to respect me. I want them to respect my daughter who’s wearing a scarf. I want them to respect my brother who’s wearing a Kufi. This is what we need to emphasize.”
Razvi also stressed the importance of stopping hate where it starts.
“When you have dinner with your children, sit down with them and tell them it’s wrong to do what these people are doing,” he said, adding that “a child is not born to hate.”
“We need to emphasize [acceptance] from the home, from the get-go,” Razvi said.
Pettit shared similar sentiments.
“This is a city of immigrants. My great grandparents emigrated here and faced intolerance and bigotry when they did,” she said. “I think of the unfairness of that, and I am determined to change the narrative. These hateful people are the minority. We are a strong community when we stand together in love. I wanted to show that love in whatever small way I could.”