“I don’t like people calling me a hero. I’m just a guy,” said Ahmed Khalifa, the 17-year-old Midwood High School student who helped catch a man who assaulted an Orthodox Jewish woman on the Q train last week.
Assembly Member Dov Hikind, City Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Baruch Moskowitz from the Flatbush Shomrim, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, Khalifa’s parents, and other leaders honored Khalifa’s act of bravery at a press conference in Borough Park. Khalifa was presented with a framed legislative resolution and a laptop for college, donated by local businesses Focus Camera and Artistic Gallery.
“You’ve been a teacher to all of us,” said Assembly Member Dov Hikind. “Through this behavior, Ahmed sets the tone for how we should treat one another regardless of one’s race or religion. I’m going to be talking about Ahmed for the rest of my life,” he said.
In late December, Khalifa jumped into action when he saw a man — who towered over him at 6’6″ — hit an Orthodox Jewish woman in the face on a train near Newkirk Plaza. The smack sent her reeling to the floor and left her bleeding. Khalifa chased the man out of the station and hooked up with the Shomrim and local police until they tracked down the attacker.
“[The attacker] was a lot bigger than me. But I don’t fear anything,” said Khalifa stoically.
“It’s just a story of nobility and heroism, not thinking about himself for a single second,” Hikind jumped in. “He risked his life — he doesn’t think so — pursuing someone that later on we discovered was very, very dangerous.”
But for Khalifa, it wasn’t an act of heroism — just a normal day of standing up for his values.
“It was my first instinct. It’s just who I am. I would help anyone as if they were my family,” Khalifa told a gaggle of reporters snapping photos and pushing microphones toward him.
Khalifa has a history of sticking his neck out to help others, like when he helped a kid getting beat up in Kensington, and several months ago when he prevented a suicidal homeless person from jumping onto the train tracks.
“Everyone thinks Islam promotes violence, but it doesn’t,” said Khalifa. “It states in the Quran that if you hit one person it’s like hitting everyone. If you save one person, it’s like saving everyone.”
Khalifa is used to hearing negative things said about Muslims, but he hopes he can change that perception, he said.
Politicians, religious and community leaders, and Shomrim reps hailed Khalifa’s act of bravery as a beacon of human kindness in a nation — and a city — burdened by “hatred, intolerance, and bigotry — online, offline, and in living color every day,” said Community Activist Chaskel Bennett.
“[Khalifa] teaches us that all of us in NYC have the moral responsibility to help each other,” said City Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Ahmed is a model citizen and we’re very fortunate to have him as part of our community.”
“One good deed is more than a thousand good intentions,” said Rabbi Moshe Shmiel Rottenberg, thanking Khalifa for reaching across religious lines.