The Nassau County Police Department is investigating a possible hate crime where an unidentified person left a large painting of Jesus hanging on a cross outside the Hillside Islamic Center in Long Island, New York.
An employee at the Hillside Islamic Center found the painting hanging from the mosque’s fence on Friday, an NCPD spokesman said in an email.
Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan, the mosque’s president, told Island Now that surveillance footage shows a man riding a bicycle to the center and pulling a shopping cart with the painting just after midnight on Friday.
Bhuiyan said he is sure the man “wanted to provoke” members of the mosque. “Had he had good intentions, he would have come to us,” Bhuiyan said, according to Island Now. “We’re always here.”
In a statement released Friday, the Council of American Islamic Relations’ New York chapter called the bias incident a “teaching moment” for the culprit, the community and anyone who is unfamiliar with or has questions about Islam and Muslims. Afaf Nasher, the chapter’s executive director, said in a phone interview that the Hillside Islamic Center echoed those sentiments.
“I spoke to the community center,” Nasher said. “While they don’t know what the intentions are of the person who did this, they are also looking at this as an opportunity for learning and that is the real focus now.”
Muslims all over the world love and respect Jesus
Jesus is one of the most highly regarded prophets in Islam. Since the Holy Quran is written in Arabic, Jesus’ name is translated to Isa ibn Maryam or Jesus, the son of Mary. He is mentioned a total of 187 times in the Quran, but is referenced in different ways: Ruhullah (Spirit from God), al-Masih (the Messiah), kalimatim-minallaah (Word from God) and Rasulullah (Messenger of God).
His mother, the Virgin Mary, has an entire chapter in the Quran named after her and is mentioned a total of 34 times. It’s chapter 19 in the Quran and is titled Surah Maryam. You can find it here.
In comparison, Prophet Muhammad is mentioned only five times in the Islamic holy book.
According to the Quran, Muslims must also believe in the teachings of the same prophets in which Jews and Christians believe. This can be found in Chapter 2 and Verse 136 in the Quran:
Say, “We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him.”
There is a hadith, or a saying of Islam’s last messenger, where Muhammad is recorded speaking highly of Jesus. This can be found in Sahih Bukhari 3443, Book 60 and Hadith 113:
Allah’s Messenger said, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.
Like Christians, Muslims believe Jesus will return on the Day of Judgement, and defeat the Antichrist. The main difference between Christianity and Islam regarding Jesus is that Muslims do not believe he was the son of God. Muslims believe he was able to make blind men see, heal the sick and raise the dead — but all through the assistance of God’s power.
Also, just like when Muslims mention Muhammad’s name, Muslims must also say “salaahu alayhi wasalaam,” or “peace be upon him” in English whenever they say Jesus’ name.
The key to combatting Islamophobia is education
Nasher, CAIR-NY’s executive director, said the incident at the Hillside Islamic Center is an “opportunity for community engagement and to root out Islamophobia.” She also said Islamophobia goes hand-in-hand with ignorance.
“There’s a reason for that,” Nasher explained. “The less they know, the more ignorant they are, and the more ignorant they are, the more susceptible they are to hate speech and fear-mongering. And then you see these surges in hate crimes and attacks on masjids all across the nation.”
On May 9, CAIR-NY released its 2017 Civil Rights Report that found anti-Muslim incidents in New York state rose 560% in 2016 alone. The report also found that more than half of those reported anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred in the eight weeks or so following the 2016 presidential election.
The challenge, Nasher said, is the battle for education. Anti-Muslim hate groups and activists have campaigned on removing lessons on Islam from children’s textbooks and opting for those that portray Muslims and Islam as inherently violent. Some of this is rooted in the fear that Muslims are trying to spread their religion.
But Nasher said lessons on Islam and Muslims are not intended to proselytize in the classroom. Rather, these lessons are merely an opportunity to introduce basic Islamic principles in world religion curriculums and to eliminate ignorance about the faith — and all other religions.