Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted him at City Hall, the Anti-Defamation League established an annual award based on the example he set and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding feted him.But the honor for Q train hero Hassan Askari that might carry the weightiest message is the one coming this week from the only newspaper serving the Muslim community of the Greater New York area. That’s because, according to the president of the Queens-based Tri-State Muslim, there is some ambivalence about it.
“There are some in our community who are not too sure that what Hassan did was really Islamic,” said Salaudeen Nausrudeen. “We totally disagree. If I were being beaten up, I would certainly want others to defend me regardless of my background.”The paper is honoring Askari, Nausrudeen said, in the hope of setting a positive example for young Muslims who might otherwise be inclined to listen to more extremist messages. Askari was the only passenger on the Q train to come to the aid of several Jewish passengers who were set upon by a gang in an incident last month police believe was an anti-Semitic attack.
Nausrudeen remarked, “This special dinner expresses sincere thanks and appreciation to Hassan Askari for his valor and heroism … in coming to the rescue of his fellow New Yorker and cousin in faith, Walter Adler. We believe Mr. Askari embodies the principles of courage, strength and love for fellow Americans as taught by the Koran and Sunnah. We salute Mr. Askari for putting his body in harm’s way, which resulted in worldwide coverage of Islam and Muslims in a positive and progressive light.”
Nausrudeen said that his bi-monthly newspaper, which he said has 20,000 subscribers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, takes an “upbeat approach” to covering the Muslim community that is designed to “help integrate the Muslim population in America. … We want Muslims to de-victimize themselves, stop complaining of persecution and instead get involved in making society better. Hassan’s actions showed all New Yorkers the kind of positive thing a Muslim can do.”
Nausrudeen said that several people who attended a Dec. 21 event in Queens honoring Askari that was co-sponsored by his newspaper and leaders of the New York Bangladeshi community “made clear that they did not agree with Hassan’s brave act. We are hoping that if more people have a chance to hear his message, it will help to change their way of thinking.”
Askari recalls that during the Dec. 21 event a young man of Arab background raised his hand and said to Askari: “I applaud your courage in doing what you did. But I myself would never save a Jew.” Askari said he responded, “I will help anyone in need, no matter what his religion. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and that is what matters.”
Askari added: “It is sad to see that some people are so short-sighted. Still, the guy who asked the question was the only person I have met since the incident on the subway who has said anything negative to me.”