I live in Little Egypt in Astoria, Queens. My neighbors are hooka bars, halal carts, sandwich shops, soccer stores, and an Islamic fashion store. I also live around several mosques. I love Little Egypt and I love being inside a culture that I have never experienced before. In the mornings, when I use to walk to the gym, I loved the diversity of watching as the Mexican, Guatemalan, and Ecuadorian day laborers hung in front of the hooka bars and Egyptian restaurants, the local Irish pub and Italian coffee house. I would hear three or four different languages while walking down the street. Living in Astoria, you are living in the midst of the entire world. It is fantastic.
And it pained me to hear that a drunk man burst into a local mosque, interrupted evening prayers, and peed on the prayer rugs. Earlier in the week, a man stabbed his cabbie because he was muslim. I’ve walked by the Al-Iman Mosque a million times. On Fridays, it overflows with Muslims during their prayers to Mecca and during Ramadan, business booms in the area because more and more non-Egyptians visit the area, drawn by the food, the flavor, and the life of the area. And here, in the middle of this place, someone gets drunk, yells slurs at believers and calls them all terrorists and pees on their prayer rugs. And in this city, someone is stabbed for working as a muslim. This is incredibly sad,shameful and it leaves me feeling speechless. But only for a moment. This is hate and must be struggled against. It is not inevitable. The language of our debates does not have to inspire these kinds of activities. This is a consequence of our inability to not separate into Us vs Them when it comes to defining America. This must change.