Jewish-Muslim Incident in Brooklyn Rocks Ethnic Balance

November 10, 2006

Author: Nathaniel Popper

Source: Independent Press Association

The Voice of America recently beamed a story around the world about the Midwood section of Brooklyn, presenting the neighborhood as a model of ethnic harmony where Orthodox Jews rub shoulders with Pakistani Muslims. Until recently, one shining example of the inter-ethnic cooperation was the Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins under the elevated subway tracks on Avenue M -- owned by a Pakistani but under the kosher supervision of a local rabbi.

On the night of October 29, however, it was in front of this establishment where police reports say a group of Jewish teenagers approached Shahid Amber, a 24-year-old Pakistani, and hurled ethnic slurs at him -- calling Amber a “terrorist” -- before proceeding to pummel him with kicks and punches sharpened by brass knuckles.

Police booked the five teenagers -- ranging in age from 15 to 17 -- for a hate crime, as well as for gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Since then, the teenagers have pleaded not guilty and, to the consternation of some Muslim leaders, received a show of support from the local Orthodox Jewish state assembly member, who accused Amber of instigating the beating. In the midst of it all, the multi-hued community, once a symbol of calm, has grappled with what the incident means and what exactly happened on the night of the crime.

“We have to realize that Shahid is not just the victim alone -- the communities are victims as well,” said Mohammed Razvi, head of a local Muslim social service organization, the Council of People’s Organizations, over coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts where the beating occurred. “We are trying to stand together to make sure this does not cause any tensions,” he added, “because there are no tensions between us here.”