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Astoria Gathers To Support Fatima Food Mart Owner After Anti-Muslim Attack

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Sarker Haque

Dec. 10, 2015 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.

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16 Comments

Greg

Glad the suspect is facing assault charges. As far as it being a hate crime, I wonder if the two good Samaritans that intervened and came to Haque’s aid heard the suspect say anything. As the previous article states, “It was not until after the arrest that Haque told officers about the hateful language said during the attack, according to a spokeswoman for the NYPD.” I am sure it is still being investigated. The suspect is from Florida and is facing a charge there from Nov. 21. I do not know how long he has been in NYC. Free coffee is common in many places that i traveled to though around here i have not seen it as much. And as far as newspapers are concerned I always pick up my free copy of local newspapers so my whole point is that it is not uncommon (to ask). The newspaper headlines on that day might of caused some tension on both parties and a topic that may have not been best to be chit chatty about in this circumstance.

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josh

Sad news. The suspect sounds like he is mentally ill. Who in the right mind just randomly starts punching someone and makes such remarks without thinking of the consequences. I happened to pass by the gathering on the way to the park. This was all over the news and I am surprised more of our big Astoria Muslim population and many mosques did not show up and lend their support because they are investigating it as a possible hate crime. The police had blocked off traffic and the majority of people looked like they were local residents or political team members.

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That One Guy

Because they are afraid. Afraid of being followed home and having the same thing happen to them. It’s incredibly sad.

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Bob

Such a sad incident. I wonder if there is surveillance video of inside the store during the incident and if that will be released to the public. How and why was the store clerk within reach of the suspect? I read the suspect has a prior arrest record after allegedly pulling his pants down in front of a Walmart store in Florida. The suspect sounds like a sick man. There are over 8 million people living in NYC and the majority of us are law abiding citizens. These handful of incidents do not represent the overwhelming majority and moral character of NYC citizens. If a Christian radical was blamed for killing 14 Muslims in the Muslim world I can imagine the devastation and chaos that would of been placed upon other innocent Christians in their countries. God Bless America.

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Dee Astoria

I am very sorry for Mr Fatima & I hope he will recover quickly from this attack that was perpetrated by a deranged individual. I regret that Mr. Gianaris used this incident to make a political statement by bashing Mr. Trump. This is exactly the reason why the American people are completely fed up with the politicians running our country & communities. Mr. Gianaris has lost my vote!

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Kate

I agree. Yes, Trump often does not sound politically correct. However, how is what he said any different than politicians who say that they are all for accepting Muslim immigrants/refugees and then vote and demand a bunch of bureaucracy and red tape for Muslims trying to get into the country making it almost impossible to enter? So tired of these politicians pretending to stand for one thing and then doing another. I give credit to Trump for at least stating what he feels no matter how insane it sounds.

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That One Guy

Are you kidding? Trump is actively inciting violence on others. He is firing his supporters up to commit these acts and when they happen he does not condemn them. Instead he says “my supporters are very passionate”. He is a bucket of vomit.

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Ms. Hart

I am so mad that this act of hate happen to this sweet man. But, I am also mad at Mike Gianaris who came to the scene and took his shining moment to bash Donald Trump. Mike, this is not the doings of Trump this is a member of your party and this member of your party is the one for nearly 8 years turned this country upside down with negative change. Shame on you Mike Gianaris to turn this terrible piece of news and it was all about this store owner not your opinion of Donald Trump who by the way is changing the relax ways of politics that has been going on in both parties.

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Mary

Who doesn’t like a good racist like Trump to mix up politics . If only he’d keep a database of Catholics we’d know who’s molesting our kids.

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