Bay Ridge

Cops nab suspect in anti-Muslim incident outside Bay Ridge mosque

August 11, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dr. Husam Rimawi, president of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, condemned the anti-Muslim incident during a press conference held a few days later. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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A suspect has been arrested in connection with a frightening anti-Muslim incident that took place outside a Bay Ridge mosque during a Ramadan prayer service, police said.

Chaim Weiss, 19, who lives in Borough Park, was arrested on Aug. 6 and charged in connection with the disturbing incident in which he allegedly drove up to the front of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge at 6807 Fifth Ave., in a car festooned with Israeli flags and blared Hebrew music over a loudspeaker while Muslim worshipers were inside reciting prayers for Ramadan.

The incident took place during the early morning hours of July 20, police said.

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Weiss was arrested inside the 68th Precinct station house at 333 65th St., at 8:50 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Det. James Duffy, a Police Department spokesman. The arrest was made by detectives from the Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force.

The suspect was charged with disruption of a religious service and disorderly conduct.

The New York Post reported that Weiss might have been motivated by anger over the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The incident, which left the Muslim community in Bay Ridge shaken, was condemned by a coalition of religious and civic leaders who gathered for a press conference at the mosque a few days later.

Dr. Husam Rimawi, president of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, said a car pulled up in front of the mosque at 4:30 a.m. on July 20 with flashing lights and sat there for a long time. Worshipers inside the mosque at first thought the vehicle was a police car. Many members of the society were unnerved by the incident and believed that the people inside the car were trying to intimidate them, Rimawi said.

“Suddenly a car just came and stood in front of the mosque with red flashing lights,” he said. “People were frightened. We tried to calm everyone down,” Rimawi said at the press conference.

The attacks “are no reflection on the Jewish community here,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, the organization that organized the press conference. Sarsour said that Muslims and Jews have lived peacefully side by side in Brooklyn for many years.

Worshipers spend a great deal of time at all hours of the day and night praying in mosques during Ramadan, Rimawi said. During the holiday, Muslims learn to have patience and tolerance for others, he said. The incident did nothing to spoil “the honest and peaceful nature of the Islamic community,” he said.

The incident also took place amid rising tensions in the Middle East. The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was escalating when the Brooklyn incidents took place.

Police are also investigating another anti-Muslim incident in Brooklyn.

Assailants threw eggs at Muslims arriving at the Tayba Islamic Center at 2165 Coney Island Ave. for Ramadan services on July 18. The egg throwers also shouted anti-Islamic slurs, according to a representative of the mosque. An egg struck one of the victims, a 72-year-old man, on the left side of his face.

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