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Local Egyptians grieve over terror at mosque on Sinai Peninsula

People gather around ambulances following a gun and

People gather around ambulances following a gun and bombing attack on the Rawda mosque near El-Arish, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / -

Egyptians and other Muslims went to Friday prayers at their mosques on Long Island with the weight of grief and concern on their minds after a terror attack on a crowded mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula ended with more than 200 people dead and many others injured.

People in the region’s small Egyptian community were reaching out to each other after waking up to the news alert, said Talaat Abdelmoneim, spokesman of the Islamic Center of Melville, a predominantly-Egyptian mosque.

“It’s horrible. Everybody’s sad,” Abdelmoneim said. “The feeling of people here is exactly the same when they heard news of what happened in Las Vegas. It’s the same thing, the same feeling, as when they heard what happened in New York” in other terror attacks. “The bottom line is that terrorists are coordinating to harm innocent people.”

Egyptians are not a large group on Long Island, but many are united by faith, with some attending the Islamic Center and others connected to a Coptic church in Woodbury. According to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau about 650 born in Egypt live in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Sanaa Nadim, a native of Cairo, who is the Muslim chaplain at Stony Brook University, said the fact that the attackers violated the sanctity of a mosque showed that such violence knows no religion, regardless of whatever faith the terrorists proclaim. Muslims are among the most numerous victims of terror in their name, Nadim said.

“They have proven themselves that they are really not about religion. They really are not about anything but their cowardly wish to control and rule over all people,” Nadim added. “If it’s their way or the highway that is not Islam because Islam says there is no compulsion in religion.”

An attack on any one house of worship, anywhere in the world, is a threat to all people of faith, said Habeeb Ahmed, president-elect of the Islamic Center of Long Island, which attracts Muslims from Pakistan, India and other countries.

“This is such an unfortunate thing,” Ahmed said. “I really hope some common sense prevails in humanity and that they stop attacking places of worship.”

The Nassau County Police Department issued a joint statement Friday from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder expressing “their condolences, thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and to the people of Egypt’s North Sinai Region.” The department said there is no imminent threat locally, but would “intensify patrols in areas of concern.”

In Suffolk, Police Commissioner Timothy Sini and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron also expressed Friday “their sincere condolences” in a statement. The Suffolk police is working with houses of worship of all faiths to enhance their preparedness, their statement said, though the department said there is no increased specific or credible threat locally.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who were harmed by this evil act,” the statement said. “The Suffolk County Police Department is closely monitoring intelligence on this two pronged attack from a variety of sources, including the NYPD and the FBI.”

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