— NYC Mayor’s CAU (@mayorsCAU) July 6, 2016
In a rare appearance around these parts, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray visited Bensonhurst Park in Bath Beach this morning to participate in an annual Eid al-Fitr prayer service organized by the Arab Muslim American Federation (AMAF).
The mayor, who was joined by District Attorney Ken Thompson and Comptroller Scott Stringer, emphasized unity and tolerance as he addressed recent terror attacks in Istanbul, Bangladesh, Baghdad, and most recently, Medina.
“[Eid] is a time of joy, as I said. We also are saddened in these last weeks by senseless acts of violence around the world, even in the holy city of Medina,” said de Blasio. “And here, in New York City, we stand strong and united in peace together. We stand as a beacon to the world – that all people, all faiths together can live in harmony, and today is a great example of that.”
Zein Rimawi, AMAF vice-president, said the gesture meant a lot to Brooklyn’s Muslim American community, which is reeling from news of the attacks on their co-religionists abroad.
“It’s a good feeling that he came,” said Rimawi, who noted that the turn out at this year’s prayer was larger than usual. “These people who are behind the attacks in Turkey and Medina are not Muslims. They kill more Muslims than non-Muslims. Of course, we are scared.”
Eid al-Fitr, a three-day “breaking of the fast” festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is generally commemorated with prayer, traditional sweets and gifts. The Bath Beach event, which typically draws thousands of worshipers, included two prayer services this year and games for children organized by the Al-Noor School.
In his closing words, the mayor also touted his efforts to make New York City more tolerant and inclusive of Muslim Americans, from his administration’s recognition of Eid al-Adha (in September) and Eid al-Fitr as official New York City school holidays, to the termination of the NYPD’s aggressive mosque surveillance program.
“I want you to know, we stand with all of you, with all our Muslim brothers and sisters, in unity. We have taken the steps to make this one city,” de Blasio said in his closing words.
The mayor’s appearance follows an attack on two teens outside a mosque in Sunset Park over Independence Day weekend, which has left local Muslim Americans on edge in light of a spike in anti-Muslim incidents around the country.
Yesterday afternoon, family and friends of one of victims — who is from Bay Ridge — marched peacefully with AMAF from its 7111 5th Avenue headquarters to Senator Marty Golden’s office to raise awareness about crimes perpetuated against Muslims. The senator, whose staff had been made aware of the march, was a no-show, according to Rimawi.
It is notable that Brooklyn’s sole Republican senator was the only local elected official to express support for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — who has made headlines with his anti-Muslim rhetoric — ahead of New York’s primary election.
“He who supported Trump, doesn’t care about us,” said Rimawi. “[Golden] has the right to his opinion — this is America — but if people are smart, they won’t vote for someone who doesn’t represent them.”
Rimawi said he worries for his six daughters who wear hijabs. “I don’t want my girls to be targeted for any reason,” he said.
AMAF also hosts an annual Iftar dinner at Dyker Beach Golf Club, drawing elected officials and interfaith leaders from around the borough.
Update [11pm]: New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer summed up the sentiment at today’s event in an emailed statement.
“Eid ul-Fitr is an opportunity for all of us to reflect upon the values that unite City residents of all faiths: community, togetherness, and service to those in need. It was an honor to join so many leaders from our City’s Muslim-American community today to wish all New Yorkers Eid Mubarak,” Stringer said.