The New York Beacon
December 27, 2000 | Rahman, Ali
New York Beacon, The
Understanding Rectifies Cops Clashing With Muslims
East Elmhurst Queens, NY on Monday Dec. 4, 2000, a highly volatile incident
erupted between four cops from the 115th precinct and Muslim vendors on
74th street-Roosevelt Avenue-corner of 37th Ave-in front of City Bank.
According to witnesses, the police initiated the confrontation by
disrespecting and defiling the Muslim Holy Quran among other religious
articles – almost causing a near riot.
What incited and angered the 100 protesters, predominately Muslim the most
was the insensitivity of police officer Marshall’s bad behavior. Which
included Sgt. Billy Williams, (supervisor in-charge), Adam Waxman and Lisa
Cordero (who issued the summonses.) They were assigned to clean up the
congested shopping area, orders from Deputy Inspector Christopher Jamison.
Only it happened at one of the most sensitive times of year on the Muslim
calendar ‘Ramadan,’ a time for fasting and praying recognized by Muslims
and others all over the world.
After a long week of seeking solutions and remedies for calm and peace in a
diverse neighborhood where 42 different languages are spoken, Christopher
Jamison, Commander of the 115th precinct located at 92-15 Northern Blvd,
Jackson Heights-Queens, made a statement: “We were ignorant and we
He was invited Monday Dec. 11, by Imam Ashraf uz Zaman Khan, from (INCA)
Islamic Circle of North America, Secretary General and Ghazi Y. Khankan,
executive Director (CAIR-NY) Council of American-Islamic Relation to
express humbly his apology to the members of the mosques at 166-26 89 Ave
in Jamaica, Queens.
Commander Jamison speaking to the irate but concerned Muslim audience
inside the masjid explained that the 115th precinct receives many
complaints constantly from the community about peddlers parking in bus
stops, honking of horns and trucks unloading. He said, “I asked my officers
to go down and solve the problem, but we were ignorant in our approach and
we again apologize. It was unprofessional conduct by the police officers
from the 115th precinct.”
The vendors were Abdul Aziz, Anwar Hussein and Mustafa Khan. Mr. Abdul
Aziz, a 65 year old vendor said, “I cried and pleaded with P.O. Marshall.
My dear, brother! Don’t touch! This is (Holy Qur’an) my heart. I will bring
religious articles to your car. The ignorance only escalated with more
insults inside 115th precinct from Sgt Williams towards Zaheera Khan, the
daughter of one of the vendors Mustafa Khan.
Ms. Khan, who is studying for her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, said, “Sgt
Williams called me a liar while I was inside 115th precinct telling my
story and filing a formal complaint to the commissioner.”
In a telephone interview the fiery Ms. Khan gave her account. “I was a
witness and observed police officer Marshall dragging and stomping on the
Qur’ans which were inside plastic bags. I told Sgt. Williams that it was
not right what they were doing. Sgt Williams yelled at me and said he was
going to arrest me for obstructing justice and interfering at the scene,
74th Street and 37th Avenue and told me if I did not like it, to go make a
complaint. But, the other two police officers at the 115th prescient showed
courtesy and respect.”
Inspector Jamison said, “When Sgt. Williams learned that this incident on
74th Street at the time could have cost him his life, he then became
frightened, panic. He even became more upset when the crowd got larger, he
then left the area, thank goodness!”
Mr. Aziz did violate some rules, said Inspector Jamison and my
understanding was that Mr. Aziz was told at three different times that his
license was incorrect.
Interviewing Mr. Aziz, he said, “It’s not true.” However, credit Inspector
Jamison for trying humbly to explain his position and rules of law to the
Muslims community at INCA.
“In order to legally sell holy religious items, be it Muslim, Jewish,
Christians, or whatever. There are two things you need, a tax-stamp, and a
Letter from the Mosque, you are representing.
Again apologizing, “The officers were wrong in disrespecting the (Muslims)
religious items,” Jamison said. He also added, the rules were written for
radios, rings, watches, scarves, and not religious articles. Jamison admits
that P.O. John Marshall was ignorant as I was and I am learning more about
(Muslims) as the day goes on.”
He added. When Sgt Williams and P.O. Marshall were informed later about the
forbidden Islamic Law that they violated, by stomping, trashing (The Holy
Qur’an). If this were a Muslim country their fate would be death!
Interviewing Mr. Ghazi Y. Khankan, who wisely said, “This gives us
(Muslims) an opportunity to do Da’wa (propagation of Islam through word and
action, calling the people to follow the commandments of Allah Ta’ala.)
Another Muslim man (name unknown) over the angry protesting voices blurted
out: “It is our fault (we Muslims) that the police officers do not know our
It is fair to say the meeting ended peacefully with a better understanding
by Deputy Inspector Christopher Jamison who was presented a Holy Qur’an by
Athar-Rahman. Jamison said, “I will learn this book.” Then, Inspector
Jamison sat down for Ramadan, eating with the Imams and the merchants who
were involved in the incident.
Like millions of people around the globe, ICNA’s leadership and members are processing the heartbreaking news of a 7.8 earthquake and aftershocks that wreaked havoc