Hundreds gathered in Hauppauge Sunday for a pro-Palestinian rally, calling for an end to bloodshed in Gaza and for elected officials to publicly support the local Muslim population.
The event, held on the front lawn of Suffolk County's H. Lee Dennison Building, took place just over two weeks after the militant group Hamas invaded Israel and killed at least 1,400 people in the worst one-day loss since Israel’s founding. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas and launching sustained attacks into Gaza.
In Hauppauge on Sunday, some in attendance chanted in support of the Palestinian cause while others urged a peaceful resolution. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Sunday that the death toll in Gaza had reached at least 4,651 people, with another 14,254 people wounded.
“The people here are very sensitive because they have families … and friends overseas that are dead, injured, or displaced,” said event organizer Mehdad Islam, imam at the Islamic Center of Mastic-Shirley. “People here on Long Island, they're very peaceful people, successful people, American citizens who do not condone violence.”
Islam said more than 1,200 Suffolk residents preregistered to attend the two-hour rally, which featured nearly two dozen speeches as well as prayers from Islamic leaders. The event was organized by the newly created Muslim Council of Suffolk County, which has joined 19 mosques from Southampton to Babylon towns. Islam, one of the group’s co-founders, said its purpose is to unite all Suffolk mosques in worship and political activism.
Dozens of demonstrators in Hauppauge lined police stanchions along Veterans Highway, signs raised above their heads, in support of Palestinian rights.
“Occupation is a crime; free, free Palestine,” was among the recurring chants.
Two oversized tarps were set up as prayer mats to give guests a chance to worship during the event.
The occasional passing motorist honked in support and the event was held without incident.
Speakers at Sunday’s rally were more concerned with current elected leaders — calling out President Joe Biden, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Kathy Hochul by name from the podium — saying those seeking votes from the tens of thousands of registered Muslim voters in Suffolk County will not be welcome in area mosques until they show support for Palestine.
“It's sad to see that we've given them so much support over the years, and we didn't get any support from them when we needed it most,” said Raza Dastgir of Muslims of Long Island, an organizer of the rally.
Noura Farouk, founder of Mothers for Justice, said the rally was about “peace and humanity” and those in attendance stand in opposition to the “loss of human life.”
“What we’re talking about condemning is something that is condemned universally in our world,” Farouk said. “It’s the bombing of civilians who are hiding in shelters, churches and hospitals.”