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US: Explosive device targeting New York mosque is being treated as a hate crime

After the incident, hundreds of people showed up outside the mosque in solidarity with the community to show there is "no hate"
The damaged crescent moon outside the mosque during Eid al-Adha celebrations (Mohamed Elbaroudy)

Just days before the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha, two people threw something resembling a molotov cocktail at a large metallic crescent moon symbol outside the Fatima al-Zahra Mosque in Long Island, New York. Local authorities are now treating the incident as a hate crime. 

On 3 July, the mosque’s imam, Ahmed Ibrahim, heard a big explosion and then saw flames. A neighbour came running to help put out the fire.

No one was injured but it was later determined that an ignited device was deliberately thrown at either the general vicinity of the mosque or specifically at the crescent moon symbol. 

“They did not achieve anything but they expressed hate. Why?” Ibrahim said at a press conference days after the incident. 

Asiya, who only wanted to use her first name, is a resident in Ronkonkoma, the hamlet where the incident took place. She said that firebombing has left the community on edge. 

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“I am just glad that no one was hurt. But next time, what if someone is? We know what happens when people despise Muslims,” she told Middle East Eye. 

“We know what happened in Christchurch where all those Muslims were murdered inside their masjid. I can’t help but wonder what if that happens here. What if we are next?”

According to Afaf Nasher, the executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair)- New York, this is the first time the mosque community has experienced this kind of incident. 

"The firebomb that was detonated on July 4th at Masjid Fatima Al-Zahra may have damaged the property, but it failed to even scratch the resilience of the Muslim community," Nasher told MEE. 

"We all recognise that a threat against a Muslim house of worship, or any house of worship, is a danger to American ideals. We hope the perpetrators are caught and justly punished, and that the Masjid continues to grow with the love and support of its surrounding community. "

Shortly after the incident, the American Jewish Committee started a GoFundMe page and raised over $1,000 to help rebuild the moon. And on Eid al-Adha, over 1,000 people (both Muslims and non-Muslims) showed up at the mosque in solidarity. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul visited the mosque on Thursday and said: "(These acts) will continue, but we'll continue to rise up afterwards. I can't stop the hate in someone's heart, but I can pass tough laws."

"The bottom line is this community is united and stronger than before," she said. "That's what this perpetrator accomplished."

The crescent moon sign was installed during Ramadan. According to the police, it cost about $10,000 to build and install, Newsday reported. Now, the mosque is putting on hold a $3m senior housing project that it was hoping to build on its property, because it must now devote about $250,000 more a year to enhanced security with cameras and security guards, Hassan Mossolem, the chairman of the mosque’s board of trustees told Newsday. 

The police department is also offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. 

“A hate crime towards the Islamic Muslim community is a hate crime toward all Suffolk County residents,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said at the mosque on Tuesday. “This is something that everybody should be angry about.”

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