New York Muslims announced a $500,000 campaign against Islamophobia on Tuesday — the same day cops reported an Upper East Side mosque was vandalized.
As the New York Community Trust foundation announced the hefty grant to improve community relations between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors, police sources said that a vandal smashed a plaque above a gate at The Islamic Cultural Center of New York.
Surveillance footage (which can be seen here) from Sunday evening captured the suspect hurling a hammer at the plaque bearing the centre’s name in Arabic three times before successfully shattering it.
“It’s a hate crime. It’s concerning. Who knows what next they could do?” Mohamed Murci, the director of the centre.
This wasn’t the first time the house of worship had been defaced, either. Roughly three months ago, someone spray-painted a different sign for the mosque logo near the E. 97th St. entrance, spokesman Mohammed Hagiabucar said. Then, a month later, someone stole the sign entirely. Staff reported both incidents to the police but no one has been arrested, according to Hagiabucar.
“It’s scary,” he said. “We don’t know what is in these people’s minds.”
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said Islamophobia was on the rise — and blamed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Fifteen years since 9/11 — this is the worst we’ve ever seen,” Sarsour said at New York Community Trust’s Third Ave. headquarters. “We’ve seen hate before but never to this level. Trump’s type of rhetoric inevitably leads to this type of hate.”
The hefty grant, which will be distributed among eight nonprofit groups, will fund efforts to foster more engagement with Muslim New Yorkers. One initiative will encourage Muslims to join local community boards.
“People who know a Muslim will look at Islam more favorably. I think that speaks volumes,” said Tazmin Uddin, 25, a coordinator with Turning Point for Women and Families.