Members of Jamaica Muslim Center along with local elected officials and members of the Queens Muslim community held a convocation in the wake of an attack on the Jamaica Muslim Center which police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
The assembly was held at the center on 85-37 168th street in response to recent attack on Tuesday, April 19. According to police reports, Michael Voyard, 26, entered the Queens mosque high on a synthetic marijuana product known as K2 and cocaine during noon prayers. Voyard yelled anti-Islam and anti-Muslim slurs before getting into an altercation with several congregants where he punched and kicked people repeatedly. 10 people were injured, three of them seriously. One congregant, a 69-year-old man, was hospitalized after suffering bruising to his face including a brain hemorrhage.
Voyard was arrested minutes after the attack around 2:30 p.m. and was charged with misdemeanor assault.
“We come together today as one community to support Jamaica Muslim Center and those who were injured,” said Councilman Rory Lancman. “This crime, including the potential bias motive, must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator brought to justice. We will not stand for violence in our sanctuaries.”
With the recent anti-muslim rhetoric making national headlines from presidential candidates, local officials stressed that law enforcement authorities should take a deeper look to investigate a possible bias motive for this crime.
“The Jamaica Muslim Center has been a place for worship for Muslims living in Jamaica and this travesty should not diminish the contribution their members have out into the community,” Councilman I. Daneek Miller said.
Miller added that as the community learns about the reality of this tragic incident, we should remember that the act of one person does not represent the many who choose to live peacefully in their neighborhoods.
The recent incident at the Muslim Center fits a pattern on growing hate motivated crimes and bias incidents targeting property associated with the American Muslim community.
“I am angered and disappointed each time I hear about an incident like the one that took place at the Jamaica Muslim Center on Tuesday,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “Violent attacks at places of worship cannot be taken lightly and I’d like to thank the NYPD for investigating a possible bias motive for this crime.”
Just before the incident Voyard allegedly broke into a car around 84th Ave., where he ripped of the rearview mirror and damaged the windshield, said Mohammad W. Rahman, President of Jamaica Muslim Center.
Voyard was charged with three misdemeanors and three violations and released under supervision on April. 20 after his arraignment. He has not been charged with a bias crime and is due back in court on June 2.
While officials acknowledged that the attacks may have been motivated by substance abuse and mental health issues, some stressed that the current climate of hostility toward muslims merits enhanced vigilance.
“You are our friends, brothers, sisters, constituents, and we will protect you to make sure this community gets the peace and security it deserves,” said Lancman.