ASTORIA, Queens – He could barely make it through his prepared speech before Fatima Food Mart owner Sarkar Haque was overcome with emotion as he looked out before him.
His neighbors, his community and his local elected officials all stood by him in Astoria, Queens after he became the victim of a hate crime just days ago. Local children even showered him with cards as a kind gesture.
"I was attacked because I am Muslim. The attacker told me after he punched me and told me I kill Muslims," recalled Haque.
The attacker was arrested and charged. A hate crime investigation now underway.
According to Haque, the attacker lingered at his shop this past weekend and then suddenly unleashed into violent assault against the small business owner because of his faith.
Standing shoulder to shoulder in a community they say cherishes its diversity, local officials said there's little question why or who is responsible for the sudden backlash against Muslims in the US. Senator Gianaris among the group blame Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's recent call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Senator Gianaris also took this opportunity , along with CAIR, the Council for American and Islamic relations to urge the Muslim community to not stay silent.
Muslim women who wear hijabs, a traditional Islamic head covering, in particular have fallen victim to the most number of attacks.
"Muslims are not terrorists. We are American Muslims. We must not be victims of hate crimes," said Haque.