Guyana national targets Hindu, Muslim neighbors

From Tony Best at NY Carib News:

An ethnically and culturally diverse community in Queens where thousands of West Indians, including Indo-Guyanese live, work, or worship, is on edge after four attempted fire bombings of properties in a single day.

The attacks in Queens and one in Elmont, a middle-class community on Long Island, have been directed at a Hindu temple, a Shiite mosque, private houses, one of which was owned by a Guyanese family, an Islamic center and a 24-hour grocery store.

City police officers are treating the incidents as bias crimes possibly aimed at religious minorities, including those from Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean as well as from Arabic speaking countries. A person of interest to the police is said to be a Guyanese national.

“We are terribly nervous,” said Rejai Rai, a Hindu from Guyana whose house was attacked but was left undamaged when the Molotov cocktail — a container with flammable liquid and a wick bounced off the house and crashed on the concrete walkway without setting the place ablaze.

“If they are going to bomb a house, to burn a house down, they meant to kill us. Why would someone want to do that to us?”

Rai and his Guyanese wife were about to go to bed shortly before 10 o’clock on Sunday night when they heard the sound of a crash and when a son looked out, he reportedly saw a man running away from the house on Glafil Street before jumping into a late model car and driving away.

The area where the attempted fire bombings occurred is in the midst of an ethnic transformation.

Years ago, it was predominantly West Indian and African American but a steady influx of Indo Guyanese and immigrants from Latin America, South Asia and Arabic-speaking countries is transforming the neighborhood.

Drive along Hillside and Jamaica Avenues and the change is reflected in the Caribbean restaurants, Christian churches, Latin American food outlets, Hindu temples and Halal shops.

In the area are single and two-family homes, many owned by Guyanese, Jamaicans, Haitians, Barbadians and Trinidadians.

From George Joseph at rediff.com:

For the weekly Monday Shiv puja at the Hindu temple in Jamaica, Queens, the attendance is usually two dozen people.

On Monday, January 2, a day after a man threw a firebomb at the house, only four people turned up, Ramesh Maharaj, the Hindu priest who lives with his family inside the building, told Rediff.com

“The crude bomb did not explode or create any damage,” he says. “The police acted quickly and increased the security around. But people are scared. My family is scared, but I am not. I trust in God,” says Maharaj, 62.

The temple was one of four sites firebombed in Jamaica, Queens, one of New York City’s boroughs, on Sunday night, the New York police said.

A house in Elmont, Long Island, an area close to New York City, was also attacked in similar fashion.

The attacks occurred between 8 pm and 10:15 pm on Sunday, January 1.

On Tuesday night, the police arrested and charged Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, of Queens Village, with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon, four counts of arson and one count of arson as a hate crime.

Lengend emerged from the 103rd precinct police station on Tuesday night in handcuffs and was taken away in an ambulance.

Reports said he had made incriminating statements that implicate him in the arson attacks.

“I don’t feel any animosity towards the attacker,” says Maharaj, “I only feel sorry for him. He did it out of ignorance, and needs help.”

A security camera at the temple captured a man throwing a crude bomb made of flammable material, possibly kerosene in a bottle.

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