The Jamaica Muslim Center is always buzzing with activity on Fridays, with residents streaming into the institution on 168th Street dressed in their best prayer attire for Islam’s holy day — but last week, the human logjam outside the mosque’s door formed for a different reason.
More than 75 people crowded at the entrance to the mosque to memorialize those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, denounce that day’s violence and remind their neighbors that Islam and terrorism are not synonymous.
“Muslims are part of the mosaic of the United States,” said Junnun Choudhury, the general secretary of the JMC. “We breathe the same air as the rest of Americans. We are happy when America’s happy, and we are sad when America’s sad. Sept. 11 is a very sad day in the history of the United States.”
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) helped to sponsor the memorial ceremony at the center on Friday afternoon and stressed the importance of remembering that everyone was affected by the events of Sept. 11, including Muslims — some of whom, many of those attending the event emphasized, also were victims of the attacks.
“Some of us lost family on 9/11, some of us may know first responders who are still sick, and some of us may experience discrimination or harassment because of 9/11,” Lancman said.
Choudhury said many Muslims in Queens have had to deal with harassment since Sept. 11, and others said they have had insults lobbed at them while they rode the subway or were in an airport.
“It’s been getting a little better, but when the anniversary got closer, we all panicked a little,” Choudhury said.
JMC Chairman Dr. Mohammed Billah and President Mahmudul Hoque both said the terrorists not only hijacked planes, they “hijacked our religion.”
“Islam is peace,” Billah said. “We’d like to live in the country in peace and happiness.”
That peace and happiness did not come on Friday, however, because police handed out tickets to more than 50 people who parked their cars near the mosque, around 168th Street and Highland Avenue, according to several worshippers. For more than a decade, including last Friday, the NYPD has given special permission for those attending the mosque to park there.
When Mohammad Alam saw the ticket for $118 on his car, he thought there must have been a mistake made and went to speak with an officer.
“I asked her politely if she issued the ticket, and she told me to get out of her face,” Alam said. “She was so rude and angry with me. Everyone was upset.”
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.