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Civil Ridgites movement: MLK Day march against Muslim bashing

Peace sign: Hundreds of Bay Ridgites marched against a spate of anti-Muslim harassment they say is gripping the neighborhood.
Arthur De Gaeta

They’ve preached an understanding!

Bay Ridgites marched in solidarity with their Muslim neighbors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, responding to Islamophobic tension locals say grips the neighborhood.

A high-profile terror attack in California and borderline hate-speech certain right-wing presidential candidates espouse has whipped xenophobic Ridgites into a frenzy, one marcher said.

“People are stirred up,” Jen Kruger said. “When we have people running for president on anti-Muslim platforms, then that is going to stir people up and make them feel free to lash out physically and vocally against things they are frightened of.”

The 200-strong crowd stepped off from the corner of 86th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, where a man allegedly kicked and spit at a Muslim woman while she waited for a bus about a month ago. Demonstrators started there to reclaim the site, an organizer said.

“We wanted to send a message that the people who hate can be loud, but they’re not the majority, and they’re definitely not us,” Teri Brennan said.

But some Ridgites have been more aggressive toward neighbors that they perceive to be Muslim since a pair of terrorists pledging allegiance to the so-called “Islamic State” killed 14 and hurt 22 in California on Dec. 2, a community leader said. Seven Ridge Muslim women have reported harassment to the Arab-American Association of New York since the Dec. 2 tragedy, according to executive director Linda Sarsour.

Monday’s march ended at Salaam Arabic Lutheran Church on 80th Street and Fourth Avenue, where aplurality of faiths and ethnicities took part in an age-old tradition — they broke bread, the church’s pastor said.

“This is a wonderful community, yet there is hate rhetoric, and we try to address this by coming together, knowing our neighbor, breaking bread together, and bringing our children so they can see who is the other,” the Rev. Khader El-Yateem said.

A complex debate over immigration and foreign policy is fueling Bay Ridge’s fire, but something much simpler can quench it, Sarsour said.

“I think people don’t do the basics,” she said. “We don’t need to do any political education — just say ‘Good morning.’ ”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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