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New York Firebombing Prompts Solidarity with Muslims

Authorities suspect that a man arrested in connection with a series of firebombings against Muslim and Hindu targets in New York may have acted out of revenge after being thrown out of a neighborhood convenience store for alleged petty theft. Our correspondent reports the incident and its aftermath highlight both suspicion of and solidarity with New York’s Muslim community.

A surveillance camera captured one of five attacks Sunday in Queens and nearby Nassau County.

Among the targets: a home used for Hindu worship...

A family home...

The Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Queens.

On Monday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly quoted witnesses as saying the suspect was ejected from a convenience store on December 27th.

“That individual tried to steal a container of milk and a bottle of Frappuccino," said Kelly. "When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that ‘we’re going to get even; we’re going to get back at you.’”

While it was not immediately clear if the attacks were based on religion, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to the Islamic center Tuesday to lend his support to the Muslim community.

“I think we all know that we are in this together," said Bloomberg. "Discrimination against anybody is discrimination against everyone.”

At his annual interfaith breakfast prayer on Friday, Bloomberg used that very phrase, which he attributed to his father. More than a dozen Muslim clergy and civic leaders boycotted the breakfast to protest alleged police surveillance of the New York Muslim community.

On Tuesday, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Cyrus McGoldrick, said the allegations of police surveillance are a sore point with many U.S. Muslims.

“Fear-mongering about Islam and other American minorities have ripped this country apart," said McGoldrick. "Warmongering politicians and willing media confirm this narrative. The warrantless and comprehensive surveillance of the Muslim community by the NYPD confirms this narrative.”

Although no one was injured, the fire bombings brought many politicians, civic leaders and clergy of other faiths to express solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. Gregory Meeks represents Queens in the U.S. Congress.

“The message is to the rest of the world that the United States of America, that New York City, will not stand for intolerance anywhere," said Meeks. "And we will join together because we are together as one to make sure that we combat anyone who tried to separate us.”

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the fire bombings, whether they were bias attacks or not, will be vigorously prosecuted and severely punished.