Hate Crime Suspected After Bacon Found at Staten Island Ramadan Event
STATEN ISLAND — Uncooked bacon was left scattered on a Staten Island field before a gathering of Muslims that celebrated the end of Ramadan, police said.
Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
A handful of organizers noticed the raw pork on the John D'Amato Field at New Dorp Park in New Dorp Beach on Sunday at 7:30 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Police are linking the incident with comments that were posted below an Aug. 17 Staten Island Advance story that previewed the Muslim ceremony. The offensive comments have since been removed.
"On a website associated with this celebration were some derogatory comments," said Kelly.
"At the site itself, three packages of raw bacon were found. This has been determined to be a biased event [by] the hate crime task force and it's being investigated."
"We are attempting to locate the individual who made the comments on the website."
A commenter with the screen name 007 Midland posted several anti-Muslim statements below the Advance story, including, "They should send in an assault team and rid Staten Island of all the Muslim terrorists."
Dr. Mohamed Sadeia, president of the Muslim American Society on Staten Island, told the Staten Island Advance that even though the field was littered with pork, which Muslims are forbidden to eat, the event went smoothly because the majority of worshipers who gathered at the field were unaware of the troubling discovery.
Sadeia, who was among the people to find the bacon, said that he called the police but did not want to distress the nearly 1,500 people who gathered for the morning prayers.
The event was the second annual celebration hosted by the Muslim American Society on Staten Island at the park. The society laid out a tarp on the park's soccer field, and worshipers kneeled on their prayer rugs as they said the morning prayer to mark the end of Ramadan, a month-long holiday during which Muslims fast during the day. It's the most important holiday on the Muslim calendar.
Hesham El-Meligy, founder of the Islamic Civic Association of Staten Island, said the end-of-Ramadan event was a success despite the incident.
"The event went very smoothly and very joyful," El-Meligy said. "It did not and will not stop us from being who we are. It's just sad that people have so much ignorance."
Pork products have been left at Muslim religious sites before — recently at a mosque in Southern California, El-Meligy said.
"They use this often unfortunately," El-Meligy said. "They're trying to taunt Muslims by doing this. It's not even meaningful."
He noted that other religions, such as Judaism and certain Christian sects, also forbid eating pork.
City Councilwoman Debi Rose condemned the incident.
"I truly believe that this act does not represent the bulk of Staten Islanders — we are a multi-cultural community who are law-abiding and tolerant and respectful of religious faith and practices," Rose said in a statement.