Muslim communities in South Queens, which formerly had expressed support of Eric Adams’ mayoral bid, have reined it in over the past month based on his comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The political arm of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, an organization with wide roots in Queens and Brooklyn, which was on track to issue an endorsement of Adams, decided against it at the last moment.
Kaled Alamarie, a Yemeni-American candidate for City Council in District 32, who has visited mosques around Ozone Park on a weekly basis throughout his campaign, said that the tenor of the area’s Muslim community suddenly shifted when Adams took a firm pro-Israel stance amid the days of violence between Hamas and Israel in May.
“Israelis live under the constant threat of terrorism and war and New York City’s bond with Israel remains unbreakable. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel at this time of crisis,” tweeted Adams on May 10 mere hours after fellow mayoral frontrunner Andrew Yang made a similar statement of solidarity with Israel.
Abdul Mubarez, president of YAMA, pointed out that there’s a strong Muslim population that considers Jerusalem a sacred place. According to some traditional interpretations of the Koran, it’s the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
“I don’t think they’re going to vote for him,” said Mubarez.
According to a New York Times map of where candidates drew the most fundraising, Adams dominated the part of South Queens stretching up from Howard Beach to Ozone Park.
“They were really behind Eric Adams because he really lobbied very hard in that community. And then suddenly with his comment about Middle Eastern issues, they pulled their endorsement and are really lobbying very hard against Adams, even though he really helped out in the past to kind of build bridges among various communities,” said Alamarie.
In his campaign, Adams has made a push to engage with the needs of small business owners, especially in the outer boroughs. YAMA represents about 5,000 stores — many of them run by Muslim merchants. Mubarez said that most of the members of YAMA were convinced until recently that Adams was most aligned with their interests.
But that suddenly changed, and Mubarez also heard that Adams was dropped from consideration by other advocacy groups like the Muslim American Society and Emgage as well in the wake of the comments.
Adams has long courted the Muslim community in South Queens. A year and a half ago, he spoke at a protest in Ozone Park organized by Muslim leaders in the wake of a series of violent attacks against Muslim and Bangladeshi members of the community. After the event, when a Chronicle reporter approached the Brooklyn borough president as he dined on halal food with a group of imams at Momo’s Mediterranean Grill off of Liberty Plaza, Adams told the Chronicle that he could not be interviewed at the moment because he was strategizing on his future mayoral campaign.
When it comes down to it, Muslim voter turnout, and that in the Ozone Park area, is low relative to the rest of the city, Alamarie said. As the Chronicle reported, the Muslim center of South Queens in the northern part of the 32nd Council District has some of the lowest turnout in the borough.
“Now they’re mobilized and they’re kind of doing registration citywide to show that, ‘OK it doesn’t matter who you vote for, but we want data to show that we’re voting,’” said Alamarie.
The leader of YAMA’s political committee did not respond to messages about whom the group was considering for endorsement.