A multi-faith coalition of clergy and community and political leaders spoke as one against bigotry Friday at the Masjid Noor Mosque in Huntington.
The gathering followed the arrest this month of Centerport resident Stephen Pratt, 55, for allegedly vandalizing the mosque. Police said Pratt, charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime, threw a container of white concrete sealer into the mosque driveway on Dec. 31. Pratt also was charged with harassment for a Jan. 10 incident in which police said they saw him throw a glass bottle from his vehicle into the mosque driveway at 1032 Park Ave.
"We're vulnerable whether we are Jews or whether we are Christians; whether we're white or whether we are black," said Town Supervisor Frank Petrone. He was joined at the rally outside the mosque by community and religious leaders representing Christians, Jews and Muslims who denounced the vandalism. "We're all vulnerable because, unfortunately, our society still has not accepted the fact that we are one people," he said.
Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit detectives, aided by Second Precinct Crime Section officers, were conducting surveillance at 7:16 p.m. on Jan. 10 as part of an investigation of vandalism at the mosque.
Police said the mosque has been targeted in the past year or two in about 10 incidents involving nails, glass and pigs' feet thrown on the property.
"Why it was done? It's difficult to tell what's in a person's mind," said Insp. Edward Brady, the Second Precinct's commanding officer. "But certainly it's offensive."
Mamoon Iqbal, a member of the mosque's management, said he was pleased -- but not surprised -- by the community support. "We as Muslims, as members of this community, we stand against any sort of racism or prejudice in any sort of way, and I'm sure every single person here can reiterate that as well," he said.
Rabbi Steven Moss of B'nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, who also is chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and co-chairman of the county's anti-bias task force, said it is not enough to use the cross-denominational greeting, "Peace be upon you."
"We must go out and devote our lives to these words as well," Moss said. "As we are doing today in such a beautiful and powerful way, saying no to hate and saying yes to peace and love and harmony."