Alfadila Community Services, a community non-profit based in Coney Island called on city pols to have the chairperson of Community Board 13, Lucy Mujica Diaz, removed from her position after she allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks on a public social media post opposing the proposed Coney Island casino.
In a letter addressed to Mayor Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Council Member Ari Kagan, Alfadila Community Services claimed the chairperson’s posts “spewed rhetoric of hate towards Islam, Muslims” and the program’s executive director and co-founder, Marie Mirville-Shahzada.
“This was a coordinated and calculated series of hateful posts towards Alfadila Community Services’ executive director, a Muslim Black Woman with the explicit intent to bully, intimidate and humiliate her solely because of the perceived perception that she was in favor of a proposed project in Coney Island that she and her cohorts of are opposed to,” the letter said.
Criticism on social media
The posts came after a neighborhood celebration on Aug. 14. Alfadila Community Services collaborated with the Isaiah Whitehead Foundation for a Coney Island event with food, music and a basketball clinic for young players with disabilities. During the game, players wore jerseys and t-shirts with “The Coney,” the name of the proposed Coney Island casino, on them.
Mirville-Shahzada said the shirts were donated to their partners, but the event was not related to the casino marketing efforts.
“It was a beautiful and fun filled day with so much diversity and unity. Individuals with disabilities were free to be themselves without judgement. The smiles were from ear to ear and the excitement had them bouncing up and down with joy,” a spokesperson with Alfadila said.
A day after the event, Mujica Diaz made a post on her personal Facebook account with a Quran verse and mentioned Muslims are not allowed to gamble. She also called out Mirville-Shahzada, asking why the event organizers promoted gambling and allowed the children to advocate for a casino.
The executive director claimed the statements were a personal attack on her as she is a Muslim, though Alfadila itself is not a religious organization.
Mujica Diaz defended her comments and said her posts did not include any harmful or negative attacks.
“The Alfadila Community Services, which runs many wonderful programs, has a relationship with the Muslim community and this made me curious about how the Muslim religion views gambling,” she said in a statement. “I did some online research, found some religious quotations about this topic and posted them along with this statement: ‘Someone explain this to me.’ My intent was to learn and to be educated.”
She now feels she should have clarified she was inquiring why children were involved in the promotion of the casino.
“In retrospect, I should have taken the time to find a religious leader and asked my question privately, rather than on social media,” she said. “I regret my error and I will be far more careful and sensitive in the future.”
Local leaders call for action
Kagan requested that following a public-apology, Mujica-Diaz should also receive mandatory sensitivity training that would educate her on “cultural competence and diversity” and the community continue open dialogue about diversity, inclusion and the responsibilities of local leaders.
“I unequivocally condemn the divisive and prejudice actions displayed by Mrs. Mujica Diaz. The attempt to sow discord and amplify intolerance is a grave violation of our community’s trust in its leaders,” Kagan said in a statement. “No individual should ever wield their position as a platform for hatred or marginalizing any member of our diverse population.”
Conversations of a potential gaming hub have been heated since the initial proposal announcement. In April, CB13 hosted a forum where residents could speak publicly if they were in favor or against the casino. Public feedback at the event was overwhelmingly negative.
Mujica-Diaz who helped plan and facilitate the event, publicly opposed the casino.
“What we’re looking to accomplish here is to let people know residents live here,” she previously told Brooklyn Paper. “We endure this craziness six months out of the year but do we need to endure it for 12 months? We need quality of life. We need peace.”