Religious Leaders and City Officials Team Up to Combat Hate Crimes

Religious leaders and city officials are teaming up against hate violence this weekend. The effort comes in the wake of several recent alleged bias crimes in New York City, including this week's assault on a Queens imam.

Among those participating is imam Souleimane Konate from Harlem's Masjid Aqsa. He wants New Yorkers to know that he and other Muslims who do interfaith work are also the targets of extremists. "They are against us, they're fighting against moderate Muslims. People must know this. It's that we're in this together," he said.

Konate said he's shaken by the news of Wednesday's alleged bias assault on a subway platform near Canal Street. "I'm not feeling well," he said. "I'm feeling so bad because I'm an imam myself, and I kind of put myself in his shoes. That could be me. You never know."

Two men are facing charges of robbery and assault as hate crimes in connection with Wednesday's incident on a subway platform near Canal Street. According to a criminal complaint, Albert Melendez made anti-Muslim remarks, and tried to kick the victim, who has not been named. Police say a second suspect, Eddie Crespo, helped Melendez grab the victim after he exited the train. Melendez then allegedly took the victim's kufi, a cap worn by Muslim men, and threw it onto the tracks before hitting him.

Harlem Councilman Robert Jackson said that the city is concerned because the attack on the Iman comes on the heels of incidents against gays in the Bronx, Jews in Brooklyn, and Hispanics in Staten Island. He argued the situation has become intolerable: “All New Yorkers must stand up and say that we are proud of our diversity, of our various religions and ethnicities, and that that's what unite us as New York City people, and that's what we have to stand for.”

The citywide “Love Love Interfaith Weekend” will feature over 30 events throughout the five-boroughs. They will include film screenings, lectures and worship services.