Congregation stands strong after cross burning

TOWN OF CARLTON, N.Y. (WIVB)- “What happened here was a crime against every person who believes in God.”

Those were the words of Bilal Huzair reacting to the fact that someone used an accelerant to burn a six foot cross shape into the front lawn of the World Sufi Foundation Mosque in the Town of Carlton.

“It angers me, it disturbs me.” said Mosque Board Member Dr. Ibrahim Shakoor. ” I just had a baby boy a couple weeks ago, and this is a place where I hope to raise my family and to see this culture of discrimination really makes we worried.”

Stella Gresham is a member of the congregation who stood shaking her head looking at the burned grass, and what it symbolizes.”We need to stop the hate. I mean that is the symbol of absolute hatred.”

David Bell sees a cross burning as an act that’s meant to intimidate. “We’re not afraid of those young individuals coming back, but we are afraid of the continuing pattern which is supported by an underlying ethos that says ‘No big deal, kids causing pranks’ because it feels like a lot more than that to us.”

After the flames had burned out, members of the congregation spotted a little red car come back to the scene. They got a license plate number, and Orleans County Sheriff Investigators say this is being treated as a bias crime, and they have spoken to the three local residents under the age of 21 who they believe did this.

“We want the law applied to them as well. We want the full extent of punishment given to them. We don’t want any of this to reoccur, ever.” said Huzair.

It was five years ago this week, that five other teens were charged for disrupting a service here, by shouting obscenities. One even fired a shot from a passing car.

“There are much bigger forces of evil at work than just some teenagers out for a bit of fun.” said congregation member Deborah Wilson.
Member Cheryl Lieberman thinks it’s something that should concern everyone. “It’s an attack on all churches, synagogues, and believing people, not just one community out here in Waterport.”

Orleans County sheriff’s Investigators say the three suspects will surrender to the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday. Although investigators are treating this as a bias crime, they have not indicated specifically what the charges will be.

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