ASTORIA — Residents and local businesses are coming together to show support for the neighborhood shop owner who was assaulted this past weekend in an attack police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
Sarker Haque, the owner of Fatima Food Mart on 21st Avenue and 23rd Street, was punched repeatedly Saturday by a man who made an anti-Muslim statement during the assault, DNAinfo New York previously reported.
A number of events are being planned this week to support Haque, who said he's owned his store for 16 years and has lived in Astoria for nearly three decades.
On Thursday morning, local politicians will join the Muslim American Society for a rally at the store starting at 11:30 a.m., according to a post on City Councilman Costa Constantinides' Facebook page.
"This targeted assault is unconscionable and is the antithesis of what Astoria is all about," the post reads. "Join us tomorrow to show that we won't tolerate this behavior."
Later on Thursday, the owner of The Giving Tree Yoga Studio on 31st Street and 23rd Avenue says she is a planning a "peaceful demonstration" in front of Haque's shop, which will include a quiet group meditation starting at 6 p.m.
"Having this happen in our backyard, it's our duty to stand up," said Anne-Margaret Redding, who lives in Astoria and runs the yoga studio with her husband.
Meanwhile, a Facebook group surfaced Wednesday called "Love Fatima Food Mart," the mission of which is to show Haque "that our community stands with him," according to a description on the page. The group had more than 300 members Wednesday night.
On Sunday, a group of residents is planning to meet in Astoria Park to sign a card for Haque, which they plan to deliver to the store owner along with flowers, according to a Facebook event created for the gathering called "Show Your Love for Fatima Food Mart."
"Come together as a community to support your neighbor and show what Astoria really stands for," the event page reads.
Haque, a 52-year-old father of five and a Muslim, told DNAinfo in an interview Tuesday night that he was assaulted by a customer who entered his store Saturday afternoon.
The suspect — whom police identified as Piro Kolvani, 55 — had been looking at newspapers in the store prior to the assault, including a New York Post cover that pictured one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting, Haque said.
After walking around the store asking if items were free, Kolvani punched Haque and said something along the lines of "I want to kill Muslims," or "I kill Muslims," the store owner recalled.
Haque said the man continued to throw punches for several minutes, until another customer entered the store and intervened.
Kolvani was arrested on an assault charge and issued a ticket, according to the NYPD, who said investigators are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime.
On Tuesday, Haque said he'd never experienced an incident like the assault during all his years in Astoria — which he considers "the best" neighborhood.
"Astoria is the best area," he said.