Monday, February 24, 2020 | ePaper

Hate Attack

7-year-old Soborno also can't escape

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Rashidul Bari :
"As a Muslim, I love Islam. But I also love Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. I love to celebrate Eid. But I also love to celebrate Durga Puja, Modhu Purnima, Rosh Hashanah, and Christmas. Let's unleash love to defeat terrorism."
At 9 pm on April 28, 2019 my family and I arrived at Khabar Bari, a restaurant located in Jackson Heights, New York, to glue the cover of Soborno Isaac's new book, "The Love," onto the wall of Khabar Bari  to promote the main message of the book:
All of a sudden, we saw a group of men moving very close to us. They were talking among themselves while we were placing the book cover on the wall (we had received permission from the restaurant owner to do so). One of these men began talking behind our backs to his group, criticizing the fact that our son, Soborno, despite being a Muslim, had Isaac as a middle name, declaring, "They can't be Muslim because their son's name is Isaac. Jewish and Christian smells come from this name."
Out of this prejudice an altercation arose initiated by the man, whose name we did not know. He began by blowing smoke from his cigarette in our direction and forced us (including Soborno) to inhale his secondary smoke. I told him he should not direct his smoke toward us--especially Soborno. However, he refused to do so. While we were giving LIVE on Facebook to promote the message of Soborno's book, "The Love," the man started directing the smoke specifically at Soborno. When I tried to capture his behavior on camera, the man proceeded to block the camera lens, and forced us to end our recording.
 Thus, began an acrimonious exchange which drew in crowds from many of the surrounding stores. My elder son, Refath, proceeded to stand between the man and me, forcing the man to back away, and calming the quarrel. Eventually, I apologized for naming my son "Isaac", which the man understood to be a concession; yet still, the man insulted me, and stated -- to paraphrase -- "You are a lapdog of Jews and Christians. You make money by doing their dirty work."
My wife took the stand and informed the man I was a college professor at Bronx C. College, and a journalist at The Huffington Post, The Times of India and The Jerusalem Post, who assumed the responsibility of recording such instances of hate speech (i.e., "you are not a Muslim because your son's name is Isaac") and aggressive behaviour (directing smoke at Soborno). And yet, among all this chaos my little son, Soborno, stood next to his mom making a heart shape using his fingers, which were shivering, in the hope of inspiring the men to stop their attack on us.
(Rashidul Bari, a doctoral student at Columbia University, teaches mathematics at Bronx C. College. His email is rb3080@columbia.edu and website is Bari Science Lab)

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