Rashed Mian

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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian

How Long Island Authorities Reacted to Recent Cop Slayings

cop murders

Police officials on Long Island said they’ve taken extra precautions to guard against “unprovoked attacks” on cops in light of the recent slayings in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

The decision to exercise more vigilance in Nassau and Suffolk counties comes after eight cops were killed in 10 days by two black men with military backgrounds. Both suspects were reportedly aggravated by fatal shootings of African Americans at the hands of the police.

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Eight cops killed

The latest tragedy came Sunday, when a former U.S. Marine identified as Gavin Long gunned down three cops in Baton Rouge, La., in what authorities there have described as an “ambush.”

Ten days earlier, a lone sniper gunned down five police officers in Dallas during a protest condemning the deaths of two black men at the hands of cops. The nation had just come to grips with the murder of the five officers when another American urban street was turned into a site of carnage and heartbreak.

Both attackers were killed in subsequent confrontations with authorities.

“These brave officers who pledged to serve and protect were gunned down by cowardly individuals,” said Nassau County Police Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki during a hastily arranged memorial for the fallen officers held Monday morning outside police headquarters in Mineola.

Nassau, Suffolk police institute added precautions after cop deaths

Nassau County police said officers would patrol in pairs as the department continues to collaborate with federal and local authorities to assess the local threat level.

“The Nassau County Police Department is taking all steps necessary to ensure the safety of the public and its police officers,” the department said in a statement. “There will be intensified patrols in areas of mass transit, public gatherings, and near critical infrastructure. Social media outlets will be intensely monitored, and we request the public’s assistance in any way possible to stop threats to public safety.”

Suffolk County Police Department was less specific about how the latest slayings would impact their police work, but the department did state that “Additional measures were immediately implemented after this attack to ensure the safety of our police officers and the citizens of Suffolk County.”

Officials in Suffolk also noted that the police department is working in concert with federal authorities, and is receiving updates on the attacks.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his counterpart in Suffolk, Steve Bellone, ordered all flags to fly at half-staff.

The intense divide rippling through communities across America spilled into the public consciousness after video footage earlier this month appeared to show a Louisiana man named Alton Sterling being fatally shot after he was already pinned down by police officers. The following day, an officer in Minnesota fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop—its aftermath was posted live on Facebook by the victim’s distraught fiancé, who was in the car with Castile at the time of the shooting.

The killings sparked days of intense protests across the country. They also reopened fresh wounds, as an already divided America has been forced to confront an uptick in these deadly tragedies.

Honoring the fallen

Outside Nassau County police headquarters on Monday, several dozen officers stood silent as a police officer played “Taps” in honor of the fallen.

The police department laid a wreath near its own memorial dedicated to Nassau police officers killed in the line of duty.

Several officers in SWAT gear stood sentry atop the building with their eyes trained on the proceedings below. Their presence was perhaps the most telling example of how police are not leaving anything to chance during this intense period.

The tone of the memorial was both solemn and disgruntled, as each person who came to the podium said police officers deserve more support.

“Next time you see a police officer, please shake their hands,” a local rabbi said.

Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker said he refused to consider a world where police officers were restricted from properly doing their jobs.

“I don’t know what society would become,” he said.

Even as Skrynecki showed disdain for the “cowardly” gunmen who claimed eight police lives in Dallas and Baton Rouge, he sought to present a unifying tone.

“We must be careful not to pit ourselves against the communities that we serve,” he said.

James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, was more bullish.

“We saw hate spread even more,” Carver said of the recent shooting. He then went on to lament what he perceives to be insufficient support for police among America’s leaders, including the White House.

“We deserve the benefit of the doubt, which we have not gotten from the top of the country,” Carver said.

Obama’s remarks not ‘strong enough’

For the second time in the course of 10 days President Barack Obama was called upon to try to heal a grieving nation.

“We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement,” he said Sunday at the White House. “Attacks on police are an attack on all of us, and the rule of law that makes society possible.”

“Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there. I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other,” Obama added. “Nor will today’s killer. It remains up to us to make sure that they fail. That decision is all of ours. The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst—that’s up to us.”

Carver was not impressed with Obama’s remarks.

“I don’t think it was strong enough, because then the president proceeded to talk about how we all must get along,” Carver said.

“Cops’ lives aren’t more important than anybody else, but cops’ lives are very important, because we’re out there protecting everybody when they’re home sleeping, when they’re working,” he said.

“The cop’s job isn’t to get shot first or anything,” Carver continued. “When he confronts a criminal, you know what the criminal is thinking? The criminal is thinking, ‘How do I get away? How can I sit there and beat up this cop and do something to this cop so I can get away and get home to my family?’

“So, our police officers, yeah, they’re trained to sit there and be able to defend themselves and take appropriate action,” Carver said. “Remember, police don’t escalate. The criminals escalate.”

Nassau PBA, along with two other local police unions, will hold a fundraiser at Mulcahy’s in Wantagh Monday for the fallen officers’ families in Dallas and Baton Rouge. All the proceeds will be divided among the survivors.

Man, 40, Killed in Rocky Point Crash

A 40-year-old Mt. Sinai man was killed in a single-car crash in Rocky Point Thursday morning, Suffolk County police said.

According to police, Jeffrey Kitz lost control of his 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer as he drove south on County Road 21 and veered into the opposite lane before crashing into the woods.

The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office pronounced Kitz dead at the scene, police said.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check, police said. The investigation is continuing.

Pokemon Go Fever Sweeps Long Island

Pokemon Go
An evee waiting to be caught. Pokemon Go has swept the nation, getting kids out of the house and inspiring meetups.

This is what happens when nostalgia intersects with 21st century technology: Hundreds of Pokémon Go-obsessed Long Islanders scurry around state parks, beaches, town halls, post offices and even churches (yep, no place is safe), as they hunt creatures only visible to humans staring excitedly into their smartphones.

Pokémon Go, the recently released smartphone app that is re-writing the record books with its meteoric rise into mainstream pop culture, has seemingly swept across the world overnight.

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Pokémon Go users on Long Island have descended on public spaces that don’t typically inspire summertime joy: the local post office, historical sites, and dare we say, the library, to catch Pokémon. Apparently all you need is augmented reality to get kids out of the house. Who knew?

One savvy Internet user created a Google map with coordinates of so-called “PokeStops” to find Pokémon roaming Long Island, and gyms where users can battle other Pokémon trainers.

Why is Pokémon Go so popular?

“The game’s popularity is beyond measure at this point,” 28-year-old Mike Alvarez of Brentwood, who started the Pokémon Go Long Island NY Facebook page, told the Press. “I have never seen something bring people together from all over, as this game does.”

“I have met some truly great individuals because of this game,” added Alvarez, who estimated that he’s met between 40 to 50 people since he started playing the game. “It’s a break away from all the negativity currently circulating the world we live in today.”

The app was released this month in select countries. It currently has more daily users than Twitter, has recorded more activity than Facebook, and has been downloaded on more smartphones than Tinder, the popular dating app, according to reports.

But Pokémon Go has drawn security and public safety concerns.

Tech writers who closely scrutinized Pokémon Go’s privacy policy noted that users may be giving away more personal information than they originally suspected or even cared to know. The game was reportedly granting itself “full access” to a user’s Google account, raising concerns that the app’s developers could read users’ emails and other Google-related content.

The gamemaker, Niantic, tried to quell concerns this week through a statement in which it said the Apple iPhone version of the game “erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account.

“However, Pokémon Go only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected.”

Public officials in New York went so far as to remind drivers not to play while operating a car.

The game’s rabid popularity has also elicited concerns about children’s vulnerability to people with ill intentions. As a preemptive measure, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference earlier this week in which he called on the game’s developer to prohibit sex offenders from accessing the app.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the department was aware of the game’s intense popularity, and told users to use caution.

“There have been various reports across the country of people getting lured to remote locations and trespassing on restricted and private properties at odd hours,” Sini said. “There have also been accounts of people using the application while driving. We are encouraging not just parents, but all users, to practice caution to avoid injury to self and others.”

Suffolk police reported on Thursday that a 19-year-old Pokémon Go user walking along Lake Shore Drive in Lake Ronkonkoma while playing the game had his iPhone stolen when he was robbed at gunpoint.

But the concerns have yet to outweigh the immense joy people are experiencing as they roam neighborhoods for rare Pokémon.

Where can Long Islanders catch Pokémon?

Social media users on Facebook and Reddit have reported significant activity across the Island. One Reddit user said they spotted about 100 people in Argyle Lake Park in Babylon with their eyes focused on their screens.

Other social media users said Port Jefferson has seen quite a bit of Pokémon Go activity, as does Huntington Village, which one Reddit user said boasts three gyms and 15 PokeStops within walking distance.

Eisenhower Park was reported as a good destination to replenish supplies, and Babylon Town Hall is apparently awash with PokeStops.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City is getting in on the action, announcing that it will host a Pokémon Go meetup on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. As an added incentive, the museum said gamers will be able to use its electrical outlets to replenish their game-drained smartphone batteries. Museum Row is home to nine PokeStops and two gyms.

Alvarez, the creator of Pokémon Go Long Island’s Facebook page, said the game’s immense popularity could be attributed to how immersive it is.

“Those of us who had the chance to play Pokémon back in 1996, now can relive that moment all over again,” he said over Facebook messenger. “For me personally it’s a great thing that’s being done.”

Like many kids and tweens in the ’90s, Alvarez said he grew up watching the show, eagerly awaited the release of each film, and collected all 151 original Pokémon cards.

But for Alvarez, the app is more than just a game or an excuse to meet new people.

He gets to enjoy these moments with his 8-year-old son, a relationship he cherishes.

The father-and-son duo are currently entangled in a friendly competition to see who catches more Pokémon. Surely Alvarez’s two-decade advantage playing the original Game Boy games and collecting cards should give him a leg up, right?

“Clearly,” Alvarez said, “he beats me on that one.”

Thousands of L.I. Muslims Celebrate Eid Holiday Amid Escalating Attacks

Eid prayer

A sea of worshippers, thousands strong, celebrated the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with two early morning prayer sessions on Wednesday inside a cavernous dome building at the Mitchel Field Complex in Uniondale. But they did so with a measure of trepidation given the bloodletting that has tainted this beloved holiday.

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Through a series of heinous massacres that true local believers declare is proof ISIS and other groups who murder in the name of Islam have nothing to do with the non-violent spirit of the religion, hundreds have died the past month in terrorist attacks in predominantly Muslim countries: 41 at an airport in Turkey, 250 in Iraq, 20 at a cafe in Bangladesh. Additionally, all the bloodshed and loss of life came during what’s considered one of the holiest of Islamic holidays.

And it was during Ramadan that a shooter who pledged allegiance to ISIS savagely gunned down 49 partygoers inside an Orlando nightclub last month, though his motivations have yet to be fully understood.

As Long Island Muslims prayed under an unforgiving sun to revel in the Eid al-Fitr holiday they were advised to reach out to their neighbors to teach them about their customs and culture. The service also served as an opportunity for religious leaders to remind people about how much work still needs to be done to combat pervasive Islamophobia.

‘Time to Take Action’

“The holy month of Ramadan is about community building, reflection—reflection internally toward one’s faith, toward one’s action and outwardly, how to bring community together, to get involved with charity,” said Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, which organized the massive prayer service.

“In these challenging times it is important that we don’t stand segregated, that we come out as one community,” Chaudhry told reporters after the morning-long service. “Whatever our faiths are, whether we belong from a faith group, whether we do not belong from a faith group, we have to come out as global citizens.”

Chaudhry spoke after the second of a pair of services that organizers estimated attracted upwards of 5,000 people.

This was the fourth straight year the ICLI held its end-of-Ramadan prayer at Mitchel Field.

Many of the worshippers who attended the first service hung around to exchange pleasantries. “Eid Mubarak,” they said to friends and strangers alike as they exchanged hugs. Many sought refuge under the trees that lined the parking lot while thousands of their fellow Muslim Americans kneeled for prayer inside the complex’s giant dome building.

Sheikh Ibrahim Negm, visiting scholar from Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, said he impressed upon those praying the importance of being part of their communities, especially during these trying times.

“This is a time also to take action, to encourage the community to take action, to tap into the spiritual reserve of their faith and to engage and to open up and to contribute constructively to the well-being of the world and to take ownership of these many challenges,” Negm told the few members of the media who attended a post-prayer press conference.

His message to the American people was one of unity.

“We are in it together. We are in a ship,” he said. “It would be unfair to demonize an entire faith because of the acts of some lunatics and idiots. These lunatics and idiots are found in every major faith traditions. We are with you, hands in hands. We are in one ship. And we will sail together against these violent winds and we will reach the shore of safety.”

Eid prayer
An estimated 5,000 people took part in Wednesday morning’s Eid prayer service at Mitchel Field in Uniondale. Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Negm was forthcoming when asked about the perception many Americans have of Muslims. He noted that religious leaders needed to make a better effort to “promote moderation and understanding and peace-building and bridge-building among everybody.”

‘It is embarrassing to even call them Muslims.’

Outside the facility, 18-year-old Ramsha Ahmad of Jericho said she was frustrated with the media’s portrayal of Islam.

“Islam is such a religion of peace,” she told the Press. “You can’t say this is a religion of violence and you can’t believe Islamophobic people like Donald Trump and figures who tell people that ISIS is an example of how Islam is violent, because Eid and Ramadan is an example of how we come together.

“We’re blessed to sit together,” added Ahmad, a sophomore law student at Drexel University. “We’re not fighting every day for our lives, and we have freedom. That’s why we feel blessed.”

Taking a break from collecting prayer mats, Habeeb Ahmed, an ICLI board member, also noted that the Muslim community needs to be more proactive.

“I don’t know where these people are coming from, what they’re thinking,” he said of terrorists who have maimed and killed hundreds during the holy month. “They say that they’re Muslims, [but] according to me, they just cannot be Muslims the way they have been behaving.

“They say they’re fighting for Muslim causes, and then they’re blowing bombs and blowing up places and Muslims are getting killed: 100 here, 150 there,” he added. “They’re spilling Muslim blood and they’re saying this is for a Muslim cause. It is such a dichotomy. It is hard to understand what is the frame of mind. It is embarrassing to even call them Muslims.”

Despite the impressive turnout, Ahmed could not help but feel uneasy. The presidential election has once again put Muslim Americans in the forefront of the campaign, while attacks on mosques are on the rise, and there’s been troubling reports of anti-Islam hate crimes increasing throughout the country.

“The feeling of the unknown is a real fear,” he said. “They are fearing us these days and some people are helping them to fear us.”

7 Jones Beach Fireworks Show Tips

Jones Beach Fireworks Show

The Jones Beach fireworks show on July 4th is back for another year—and organizers urge Long Islanders to arrive early for the dazzling Independence Day celebration.

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The Astoria Bank-sponsored show went on a seven-year hiatus starting in 2008 due to New York State budgetary woes, but returned to the South Shore’s most famous beach last year. More than 140,000 people attended last year’s show.

Here are seven things you need to know about this year’s Jones Beach fireworks show.

1) WHAT TIME IS THE JULY 4TH FIREWORKS SHOW AT JONES BEACH?

The Jones Beach fireworks show begins at 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 4th. George Gorman, deputy regional director of New York State Parks for the Long Island Region, advised revelers to arrive early in order to avoid long lines entering the beach. Traffic toward Jones Beach should spike around 6 p.m., organizers said. State police will divert traffic away from Jones Beach if parking lots fill to capacity. Parking along the shoulder is prohibited, Gorman said.

2) CAN I WALK ON?

Sure. You can also travel by bike, if you’re into that. Plenty of people choose to walk or bike along the Cedar Creek County Park path to Jones Beach State Park instead of sitting in traffic. The path is about five miles long. Cedar Creek is on Merrick Road in Seaford.

3) HOW MUCH DOES THE SHOW COST?

Drivers will be charged a $10 special event fee. The usual parking fee will change to a “special event” fee at 4 p.m. Monday. New York State’s seasonal Empire Pass will be accepted.

Jones Beach Fireworks Show

4) HOW LONG IS THE SHOW?

The Jones Beach fireworks show will last 30 minutes, officials said. New Jersey-based Garden State Fireworks will conduct the firework display. This is the second-consecutive year that the company won a bid to dazzle the night sky.

5) HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO SHOW UP?

Gorman estimates that this year’s show will attract upwards of 100,000 people. The parks department estimates that attendance could be lower than last year due to the holiday falling on a Monday. Still, Jones Beach could see as many as 200,000 people throughout the day Monday.

6) WHAT CAN’T I BRING WITH ME?

The obvious items are prohibited from the park. They include: fireworks (including sparklers), kites, drugs, balloons, weapons, Frisbees, skateboards, scooters, rollerblades and balloons. Only one 12-ounce alcoholic beverage is permitted per person over 21 years old.

7) WHERE ELSE CAN I SEE THE SHOW?

There are alternative parks along Nassau County’s south shore where people elect to take in the show. Two hot spots are Wantagh Park and nearby Cedar Creek Park. The county does not charge a parking fee after 4 p.m. For a fee, spectators can also watch the show from boats leaving from Captree and Freeport.

Democrats Have a No-Fly List Problem

Democrats staged a dramatic sit-in at the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday led by civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to pressure the Republican majority to hold a vote on a contentious bill that would prevent US citizens on terror watchlists, including the no-fly list, from purchasing a gun.

Democrats occupied the chamber for 24 hours, chanting “No bill, no break,” as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) went about his business, barely acknowledging the Democrats’ protest. Earlier in the day, Ryan, in an interview with CNN, brushed aside the protest as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”

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At issue is whether US citizens on secretive terror watchlists should be barred from purchasing firearms. The debate has spawned rather peculiar bedfellows: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Ryan are fierce opponents of any legislation linking controversial lists of suspected—but not accused—“terrorists” with gun control measures, while Democrats and presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump actually agree on the measure. The only difference between the ACLU’s mindset and Ryan’s, is the ACLU does not believe the Second Amendment is immune from regulation.

“In this country, we do not take away people’s constitutional rights without due process,” Ryan said Thursday. “This is not just Republicans saying this. It’s groups like the ACLU who are saying this.”

The raucous debate over gun control legislation returned to the fore following the mass slaying in Orlando that killed 49 people at a popular gay nightclub. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was twice investigated by the FBI but never formally charged. He was briefly placed on a terror watchlist but his name was scrubbed after both investigations were subsequently closed.

The sit-in, a Civil Rights-era tactic broadcasted on CSPAN via new-school technology in lieu of the traditional C-SPAN feed, also featured speeches from Democrats criticizing their GOP colleagues for failing to act.

House Dems emphathically contend that there should be no legal avenue for suspected terrorists to purchase a gun. But civil liberties groups warned that labeling people on such lists as “terrorists” or even “suspected terrorists” is irresponsible given the opacity governing how people are placed on watchlists.

“Our nation’s watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names,” the ACLU said in a letter to the U.S. Senate, which voted on but did not pass a similar gun ban.

Under the government’s current system, people who believe they were mistakenly placed on the list have no way of ascertaining why their name was included in the first place.

After a federal court ruled in June 2014 that the rules in place to challenge inclusion on the no-fly list were unconstitutional, the government said it would tell US citizens whether they’re on the list. In the past, those included on the list only made the discovery after arriving at a US airport.

A separate lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York School of Law CLEAR project resulted in four men having their name taken off the list. But the court, on the government’s recommendation, dismissed the lawsuit. Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the FBI in 2014, claiming the men were coerced into becoming FBI informants by agents who said they would remove their names from the no-fly list if they agreed to spy on behalf of the government. The four men were all Muslim.

“I’m disappointed that I won’t be allowed to have my day in court. Though I can finally travel to see my family, I have missed so many milestones being away and have been treated unfairly,” Awais Sajjad, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said in a statement after the lawsuit was dismissed. “The FBI agents knew I was desperate and tried to pressure me to become an informant. That shouldn’t go unpunished.”

At the time of the suit, one man had gone five years without seeing his wife and three children. Another was stopped from boarding a flight to Pakistan, where he was going to visit his ailing father and elderly grandmother, the suit claimed. Instead he was ushered to a windowless interrogation room.

The ACLU sued the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Terrorist Screening Center in June 2010 on behalf of more than a dozen people on the no-fly list. Four years later, seven of the 13 plaintiffs were removed from the government’s database. However, the remaining six were given a summary explaining why they had been placed on the list.

Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with the independent news oulet Democracy Now, challenged Democrats to pursue gun reform without endangering civil liberties.

“What they’re essentially doing is that they’re compromising a fake concept of constitutional rights in gun control, and they’re keeping that strong, and they’re watering down an already bad system which we have, which is the no-fly list,” he said. “People don’t know how they get on the no-fly list…So, if you’re using no-fly list as a proxy for dangerousness, as a way to tell that somebody’s going to be dangerous…it’s not going to work. And we’re essentially solidifying the Republican position against gun control by watering down our constitutional rights to stay free from these type of invasions.”

For now, the Democrats will continue to push for legislation barring people on secretive lists from getting access to guns. But by provoking backlash from civil liberties groups, Democrats have provided Ryan with an opening to turn what was a debate about guns into a discussion about the potential harmful effects of limiting a US citizens’ right to due process—a conversation Democrats on any other occasion would be eager to have.

Report: Huge Spike in Mosque Attacks Last Year

After waking up on June 12 to the news that a Muslim man had slaughtered 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, a large segment of the congregation at the Islamic Center of Long Island decided to skip Sunday prayer.

“People were afraid,” said Isma Chaudhry, president of the ICLI in Westbury. “People were afraid to come out of their houses.”

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For many Muslims, with each attack, whether it’s in an American community like Orlando or in a European metropolis like Paris, comes yet another wave of anti-Islam rhetoric.

Then there’s Donald Trump. Since the vicious slayings in Orlando, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has doubled down on his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US and has said he supports racial profiling of Muslims. He also openly speculated that Muslims may be hiding potential terrorists. But it turns out that a Muslim American reported the Orlando shooter to the FBI. On previous occasions, Trump has talked favorably about spying on mosques and killing innocent family members of terror suspects.

For some Muslim Americans, simply visiting their local mosque necessitates extreme caution.

A report released jointly Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the U.C. Berkeley Center for Race and Gender detailing the meteoric rise of Islamophobia in the US found that attacks on mosques nearly quadrupled from 20 to 78 between 2014 and 2015. Nearly half of those incidents occurred between November and December—around the same time of the attacks in Paris and the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif. The far majority of those incidents were labeled vandalism or intimidation, according to the report.

In announcing the findings, Corey Saylor, director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, said Muslim Americans haven’t faced this much backlash since the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy reached a fever pitch in 2010.

“This time around [Islamophobia] has a much more violent tenor to it, and we see a lot more acts of intimidation targeting mosques,” Saylor told reporters in Washington, D.C.

The study also revealed that 74 groups make up what researchers have termed the “US Islamophobia Network.” Promoting anti-Islam sentiment is apparently a lucrative business. According to the report, 33 of those organizations had access to $205 million in revenue. A larger segment of the network, considered to be in the “outer core,” includes such media personalities as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Bill Maher.

Saylor said the goal of the report was not to silence Islam’s detractors but to encourage Muslim Americans to become more involved in social justice movements and to delegitimize groups that promote Islamophobia.

“It’s not our goal to go out and say, ‘Hi, guys, the Muslims are here, and we’re going to take over,’” he told reporters Monday. “It’s our goal to be good allies. That’s what our faith tells us to be.”

After the homophobic attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Muslim American leaders on Long Island reached out to their respective police departments and requested stepped up patrols.

Both Nassau and Suffolk County police said they had already instituted a heightened presence since this is the holy month of Ramadan.

Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said bias-related crimes in the county are relatively low. Any incidents that do arise, he insisted, would be investigated thoroughly.

The Islamophobia report counted only seven attacks on New York mosques from 2013 to 2015. But Saylor cautioned that the actual number might be higher due to under-reporting.

Following the shootings in San Bernardino last December when a radicalized couple killed 14 people, the Islamic Center of Long Island was tagged with graffiti by vandals who drove a truck onto the mosque’s grounds, Chaudhry said.

Nayyar Imam, the first-ever Muslim chaplain for the Suffolk County Police Department and president of the Long Island Muslim Alliance, said the Selden mosque has not been targeted, but leaders there remain vigilant. The mosque recently cancelled a bake sale for a girl’s youth group out of concern that they’d be targeted.

“When they’re sitting outside, you’re exposing yourself to any kind of crazy person who can walk in,” he said.

Imam says he is worried about the toll these attacks—and any future incidents—will have on the Muslim community.

“We have to do a lot of work,” he said, noting that Muslim Americans have to do a better job of reaching out to non-Muslims.

One way Muslims can get more exposure is through the political process, Saylor suggested.

“Don’t be invisible,” Saylor said. “Don’t bury your head.”

The anti-Islam rhetoric may have one unintended effect, however. According to data released by CAIR on Tuesday, more than 300,000 Muslim Americans have registered to vote since the 2012 election.

What could be driving the increase?

“The apparent jump in Muslim voter registration is just one possible indicator of increased political involvement resulting from rhetorical attacks on that faith community by public figures,” the organization said in a press release.

Body of Missing Atlantic Beach Man Found Off Jones Beach Inlet

The body of an Atlantic Beach man who had gone missing while paddle boarding near his home last weekend was found off Jones Beach Inlet on Friday, authorities said.

Both Nassau County police and the United States Coast Guard confirmed they recovered the body of 41-year-old Gary Turkel. Turkel’s paddle board was also discovered.

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said a private fishing boat alerted Nassau County police at around 6 a.m., who then contacted the Coast Guard. Turkel’s body was recovered about 24 miles off the coast, the spokesman said.

Turkel had gone missing near his Atlantic Beach home Sunday afternoon, police said. He was last seen by his wife paddleboarding by Yates Avenue, police said.

After Orlando Attack, L.I. Muslims Feel They’re ‘Back To Square One’

The woman on the other end of the phone was rattled.

“What are we going to do?” she asked, desperately.

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As a board member of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, Dr. Faroque Khan is no stranger to random phone calls from members of the community or journalists inquiring about the Muslim response to the latest attack.

“She was shaken,” Khan told the Press, recalling the moment he learned that the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando identified as Muslim.

The caller was a former ICLI board member who moved to Florida and now belongs to a mosque in the Sunshine State.

Put out a press release, Khan calmly advised. The ICLI would publish its own condemnation later that day.

“As Muslims and people of faith we must remember that God has directed us to defend all people equally against bigotry, hate, violence and abuse,” the ICLI’s statement declared. “The preservation of life is one of the main principles prescribed by the Islamic Faith.”

For a brief period before the massacre in Orlando, it seemed American Muslims had been given some reprieve.

The death of Muhammad Ali, who very publicly espoused his religion, had inspired hundreds of people to spill into the streets of his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in honor of his life, while millions more watched from afar. Newscasters paid homage to not just a transcendent boxer, but also a man with an unwavering set of beliefs—a Muslim, whose religion served as a moral touchstone for everything he did.

In the ring, Ali had compiled 56 wins, with 37 victories coming by way of knockout. But to those who study the sport, it was Ali’s defensive ability that particularly stood out. With Ali gone, however, it’s as if Muslim Americans have had to take up the mantle as skilled defenders because they’re once again forced to respond to yet another heinous act committed in their faith’s name.

For Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, the brief period of genuflection for Ali seemed to portend a turning point for her religion.

But in post-9/11 America, it’s U.S. Muslims who are continuously dodging blows or being propped up as punching bags for commentators on unforgiving cable news networks amid rising nationalistic fervor buoyed by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign.

“The media was portraying all the positive things [Ali] had to say about community, about Islam—and very eloquently, very passionately, very sincerely,” Chaudhry told the Press, three days after the mass slaying in Orlando. “And Muslims were about to take a breather—and then ‘Boom!’ ‘Boom!’ Honestly, it’s like someone keeps smacking you on your head.”

Indeed, multiple Muslim leaders speaking to the Press in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting appeared exasperated, offering a common refrain: that they had seemed to be making progress fighting off stereotypes, but now realize there’s much more work to be done.

“We take two steps forwards…” Chaudhry said the day after the rampage in Florida.

Khan, a board member at the ICLI, perhaps not surprisingly, uttered the same exact phrase.

Dr. Hafiz Ur Rehman, a member of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, lamented: “You know, you’re back to square one.”

The latest attack to thrust Muslim Americans back into the national spotlight was the most deadly since Sept. 11, 2001, and the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

The reaction from Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was swift: patting himself on the back for, in his words, essentially predicting another attack perpetrated by a Muslim. He repeated his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims traveling to the United States (the shooter was born in New York) and proposed law enforcement spy on mosques.

Trump chided President Barack Obama for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam,” suggesting Obama’s noncompliance demonstrated weakness.

Visibly irritated, Obama took aim at his detractors on Tuesday during a speech updating the administration’s efforts to “destroy” the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase ‘radical Islam,’ Obama told reporters. “That’s the key, they tell us—we can’t beat ISIL unless we call them ‘radical Islamists.’

“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” he continued. “What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is ‘none of the above.’ Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

Obama isn’t the only president to refuse to dub terrorists who identify as Muslim “radical Islamist.” George W. Bush made it a priority not to conflate Islam with terror for the majority of his presidency. Six days after 9/11, Bush stood outside a mosque in Washington, D.C. and proclaimed, “Islam is peace.”

Authorities found no evidence that the shooter, Omar Mateen, coordinated with any terror groups, officials have said. But there were reports of ISIS sympathizers celebrating the attack.

Following days of continuous coverage of Islamic extremism, Chaudhry said Obama’s defense of law-abiding Muslim Americans was therapeutic.

“He made us so proud as Americans because American politics was going in a very different direction, it was going in a direction that was pulling us down,” Chaudhry told the Press during an interfaith Iftar dinner Wednesday night, the evening meal in which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

“It was going in a direction that was depressing,” she added. “It was going in a direction where we were becoming a world mockery. What he said brings hope, brings justice, brings an identity to be proud of as Americans and I can’t thank him enough for that, I can’t thank him enough as an American.”

The Islamic Center of Long Island’s 13th annual interfaith Iftar had been scheduled prior to the vicious attack, but the tragedy weighed heavily on everyone’s mind.

In attendance were members of all faiths: Jews, Christians, Muslims. Nassau County police officers mingled with religious leaders and the mayor of Westbury, Peter Cavallaro, a Republican, offered some brief remarks.

“This is not a reaction,” Chaudhry said. “My personal view is reactions are too late. As a community we have to be proactive. We have to identify and understand each other’s concerns and that can only be accomplished when we sit together—when we sit together without an agenda. When we are not reacting to an event, that’s when we can all really come and get to know one another.”

Rev. Hank Lay of Parkway Community Church in Hicksville said this was his 10th Iftar at the ICLI.

Lay, who makes a habit of visiting the ICLI monthly, said even he put the weekend’s slaying into a “religious context, of a radical Muslim attacking a group of Americans.”

“By Monday I recognized that it was radical religion attacking a sexual group that they think is abomination,” he told the Press. “And I found on the web, Christians praising the shooter for killing these people.”

Lay said the YouTube videos have since been removed because they were considered hate speech, therefore the existence of the videos could not be independently verified. “[That] tells me the issue is not a religious issue in the sense of Islam, it was the radical fundamentalist side of many religions, including my own, Christianity, that finds sexual diversity contrary to their understanding to God and therefore has very little sympathy if they suffer because of it,” he said.

Rabbi Andrew Gordon of Temple Sinai of Roslyn told those gathered that it’s up to all religions to be more proactive if they want to end hatred.

“As we pray for God’s protection, we know that we cannot wait for God to act, we must act,” he said. “All of us: Christians, Muslims and Jews, gay and straight, black and white, young and old, all of us must join hands together. We cannot let politicians or television announcers demonize an entire religion.”

Rahman, in a separate interview, was wistful when discussing his emotions during Muhammad Ali’s funeral, which he said put the faith in a good light.

“In this particular case, the funeral of Muhammad Ali, I thought, was an excellent thing that showed…about Islam and it’s beauty, and then here comes the crazy man and knocks out 50 people,” he said. “You know, you’re back to square one and it’s horrible, it’s frustrating. It brings a bad name; it’s trying to hijack the good name of the religion.”

(Featured photo: Interfaith dinner at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury on June 15, 2016.)

Bellport Man, 21, Dies in Forklift Accident, Cops Say

A 21-year-old Bellport man was killed Thursday when the forklift he was operating overturned, Suffolk County police said.

The incident, which homicide detectives said appears to be non-criminal, occurred at Swim King in Rocky Point at approximately 4:30 p.m., police said.

The victim, Jose Rodriguez, was operating the forklift when the machine fell to its side, pinning Rodriguez under the roof of the forklift, police said.

Rodriguez was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office will be conducting an autopsy, police said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been notified, police said.

hofstra transfer day today