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Man beats Muslim store owner in Astoria; police investigates attack as hate crime

Posted at 8:12 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 10:31:54-05

ASTORIA, Queens — As anti-Muslim rhetoric rises, particularly on the presidential campaign trail, so do physical attacks on Muslims. In one particular attack in New York, non-Muslim heroes emerged, but not before one man took a painful beating that's now being treated as a hate crime.

Sarker Haque, 53, still had a black eye from the Saturday afternoon pummeling he took in his store, Fatima Food Mart, on 21st Avenue.

"He punched me here," store owner Sarker Haque said, rubbing the back of his neck, and pointing to an ice cream cooler. "I fell down here," he said. "I say, 'What the hell you doing? What's wrong with you?' [The attacker] said, 'I kill Muslims.'"

Police identified the attacker as Piro Kolvani, who investigators said pummeled Haque repeatedly.

"He punched me as much as he can with his left hand," Haque said, choking back tears as he pointed to the arm he'd dislocated last winter that got inflamed again in Saturday's beating.

"He grabbed me here. Then he punched me here," Haque said while pointing to his face.

The daylight attacks on Mister Haque was the latest of recent attacks on Muslims and the Muslim community in New York and the Northeast. On Sunday, somebody threw a pig's head against the wall of a mosque in Philadelphia, a blatant attack against a religion that considers pork unfit for proper consumption.

Also at P.S. 89, an elementary school in the Allerton section of the Bronx, authorities are monitoring an incident from last month, where sixth-graders tried to remove a girl's hijab, or her head covering, and said she was in ISIS.

"It's again this ignorance," Sadiya Khalique, director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said.

She and Haque, however, pointed out another side of the increase in attacks. "A person came [by]," Haque said about how the violent episode he was involved in concluded. "He knows me."

One of Haque's loyal customers could hear the commotion and Haque's cries for help. "I'm bleeding this time," the store owner said, "so he [took] hold of him."

The customer, a Latino man, who asked Haque to not identify him, intervened and held down Kolvani until police came. Another passerby called 911. Neither of the Good Samaritans are Muslim.

"It doesn't matter what color or nationality you are," Haque said. "We are in America. Everybody came from somewhere."