Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his energetic embrace of New York City’s Muslim population Sunday evening, visiting Staten Island’s Albanian Islamic Cultural Center. de Blasio spoke at a celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birth. Since taking office de Blasio has embraced the City’s Muslim community, adding two Muslim holidays to the school system’s calendar for example, with that embrace more visible as we enter the Trump presidential era. For de Blasio the Staten Island location was an additional plus, as many Staten Islanders feel that de Blasio has minimal interest in the smallest borough.
Arriving about 30 minutes late, de Blasio joined a group of about 75 men seated on the carpet of a large prayer room. Women were seated on a rear balcony, obscured by a scrim-draped railing. de Blasio was accompanied by the NYPD’s borough commander, Assistant Chief Edward Delatorre and escorted by the Center’s president, Dr. Zarkani Vardar, and Imam Tahir Kukaj. Both Vardar and Kukaj gave warm introductions of de Blasio, with Vardar thanking de Blasio for the respect implicit in his visit. Dr. Vardar’s compliment that he could see de Blasio as president someday drew a smile and a chuckle from the mayor.
de Blasio spoke strongly on confronting anti-Muslim bias and hatred, promising continued vigorous effort by the NYPD. He praised Imam Tahir Kukaj, hailing the NYPD’s arrest of a man charged with threatening the Imam. Afterwards, the mayor greeted and took photos with several dozen well-wishers. He did not take press questions.