December 10, By Michael Florio
An Astoria storeowner feared for his life earlier this week, when he was attacked in his shop strictly because he is Muslim.
Sarker Haque was attacked in his shop, Fatima Food Mart, located at 21-37 21st Ave., Saturday afternoon. The attacker is said to have proclaimed, “I kill Muslims,” and the NYPD is investigating the case as a hate crime.
Haque said the attacker, who police have identified as Piro Kolvani, was reading a newspaper article about last week’s terror attack in California. He then turned to Haque and punched him in the neck, causing him to fall down onto an ice cream cooler. The attacker continued to strike him and proclaimed, “I kill Muslims,” Haque said.
“I was terrified for my life,” a very emotional Haque said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Local politicians gathered this afternoon in front of Haque’s store to bring the community together and combat this hateful crime, while also blaming Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump for spreading hate.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris stated that Trump is spewing hatred and attempting to divide the country. By coming together and supporting Haque, the community is taking a stand against those beliefs, he said.
“These hateful actions are the direct results of the hatred that is being inspired in the national debate,” he said.
Along with this attack, other hateful acts have taken place around the country, including a pig’s head being left at the door of a Philadelphia mosque and a girl being attacked and allegedly called “ISIS” in P.S. 89 in the Bronx.
Councilman Costa Constantinides added that Trump speaks nonsense that is not welcomed in Astoria.
“He [Trump] wants his hate to be talked about and his name to be out there,” he said. “Astoria is a very diverse neighborhood and we work together and love our neighbor. That is what American is really about.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta backed those sentiments and reminded residents to stand up for the victims of hate crimes.
“If we don’t speak out then the next victims might be us,” he said to applause from those in attendance.
Nearly 100 residents attended the event to express support for Haque. Some attendees held up signs, including one that read, “#StandWithSarker.”
“For someone who is running for president to spew such hatred is completely un-American,” Peralta added. “That is not how we in Astoria do business.”
Haque, who stated he is a proud American, also spoke out against Trump.
“Trump should not say what he is saying,” he said. “America is united and he is trying to divide us.”
“Muslims are not terrorists. We must not be victim of hate crimes,” he added.
He noted that he has lived in the country for nearly 30 years and is very proud and thankful to be an American.
“This is my country,” Haque, who emigrated from Bangladesh, said. “I have a beautiful family and this country has given me everything I have.”
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas emphasized that Astoria is a community that welcomes immigrants, as it did when her family came to the United States in the 1970s.
She called Haque, a small business owner with five children all attending public schools, a “prime example of what we want Americans to be.”
“I’m sorry for what happened to you and I cannot tell you how disgusted I am,” she told Haque. “This behavior is unacceptable.”
Kolvani was arrested that afternoon and faces assault charges. The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the incident.
Residents will hold a peaceful meditation in front of the shop at 6 p.m. tonight. A Facebook group was also founded after the attack, called “Love Fatima Food Shop” and has garnered over 600 members.