A Muslim store owner was assaulted in Astoria, Queens, last weekend, and the NYPD is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Sarker Haque, owner of Fatima Food Mart, tells DNAinfo that a man came into his shop last Saturday and started looking at newspapers, including a copy of the New York Post featuring the San Bernardino killers on the cover. “He looks at it two or three minutes, then comes to me and he said, ‘Everything free in this store?’” Haque said. “And I said, ‘What? No.’” The man walked around the store, pointing at various items and asking if they were free. Haque says when he asked the man what he wanted, he didn’t answer; then he suddenly punched him in the face, knocking him into a display case. “I say, ‘What the hell you doing? What’s wrong with you?’ [The attacker] said, ‘I kill Muslims,’” the shopkeeper said.
Haque said he ran behind the counter and tried to reach his phone, but the man followed and continued beating him for several minutes. “I was screaming and crying, I say, ‘Can anybody help me?’” he said. “I thought he was going to kill me.” A regular customer came into the store and intervened, holding the suspect down as a passerby called 911.
Police identified the attacker as 55-year-old Piro Kolvani of Florida. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, and bias charges may be added. Haque was treated at Mount Sinai Queens Hospital for bleeding and bruising.
“The lives of American Muslims have been placed in danger by the rising anti-Muslim hysteria in our nation and by the inflammatory rhetoric used by a number of national public figures,” said Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. the organization said the incident “fit a pattern of increased hate-motivated crimes and bias incidents nationwide” since last month’s terrorist attack in Paris.
In recent weeks there have been a number of anti-Muslim attacks across the nation. Last week someone threw a pig’s head at a mosque in Philadelphia, and the NYPD is investigating an incident at P.S. 89 in the Bronx last month, in which three sixth-grade boys allegedly put a Muslim classmate in a headlock and tried to remove her hijab, calling her “ISIS.”
Neither of the people who came to Haque’s aid were Muslim. “It doesn’t matter what color or nationality you are,” he said. “We are in America. Everybody came from somewhere.”