In response to a woman being caught on video verbally harassing another woman on the S53 bus that travels between Bay Ridge and Staten Island for being Muslim, the New York City Commission on Human Rights’ Bias Response Team hosted a Day of Visibility in the Ridge to remind minorities, especially Muslims, that they have rights and shouldn’t have to deal with hate-filled speech
On Friday, July 20 at 2 p.m., the team joined city agencies, elected officials and advocates outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, 6807 Fifth Avenue, to convey that message.
“We’re out here today to educate New Yorkers about their rights and protections from discrimination as well as how to report it,” said Widad Hassan, the lead advisor for Muslim Arab South Asian communities at the commission.
In the video, the aggressor is heard telling the victim, “You’re no citizen. You can’t even speak English. Hi I’m Ashley. If you’re taping me, I’m getting into a fight with some Muslim chick because she has an attitude because she thinks she has rights that she doesn’t have. Oh, immigration is at the door. Is that ICE?”
Hassan discussed her personal feelings on hearing the rant directed at the hijab-clad passenger, who was on the bus with her child in a stroller.
“It was very upsetting to see the crowded bus and no one intervened,” she said. “That’s why we’re doing a bystander intervention program, because a lot of times, people want to help and don’t know how to. This training would provide people with the skills and the tools to intervene in a way that’s safe for them and the victim.”
Bay Ridge resident Ahmad Mourad opined that while the effort is a step in the right direction, not much will be solved.
“For me it’s a good feeling to see this,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean much because in the end we pay the price with what’s going on with the Trump regime. If the mayor sends people to say we’re with you, in the end what does it change? I live in New York but I can’t bring my family here. Maybe they are trying to do their best but it’s not enough.
“Every Arab Muslim family has experienced racism in New York,” Mourad added. “Sometimes I walk with my ex-wife who is wearing a hijab, and they stop and say, ‘Go back to your country.’ That’s here in Bay Ridge. Every family has heard that. They’re afraid to say anything.”
“It was horrifying and no one should have to go through that,” Director of Community Affairs for Councilmember Justin Brannan Saleh Altaheri rejoined. “It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, or background or faith you belong to. We should treat everyone with respect, love and dignity. We support the rights of everyone.”
Throughout the day, they also promoted a Bystander Intervention Workshop in partnership with the Arab American Association of New York that took place on Tuesday, July 24 at Beit El-Maqdis, 6202 Sixth Avenue.
“Our goal is to let people know that discrimination like this or cases like this are not tolerated by the city,” Hassan added, “and that we will do whatever we can to counter that kind of climate.”
“Sadly I feel that this is a common experience for those who wear religious clothing or immigrants in New York City,” added Seth Hoy, a spokesperson for the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “What struck me was that, on the bus, no one was helping. You can tell people wanted to help but didn’t know how. Safety is a concern but there are things you can do to de-escalate situations and help someone experience less discrimination.”
For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/humanrights or call 311.