The Islamisation of Brooklyn

“I was Brooklyn bound – or so I thought. I took the subway to see a fellow alumna of New York’s High School of Music and Art (as today’s LaGuardia High School for the Arts was then called). I looked forward to the nostalgic reunion. I hadn’t been in NYC for ages, and catching up with an old classmate seemed an indispensable component of walking down memory lane.

“What’s more, Kathy still lives at the same address in the cozy middle-class neighborhood where I sometimes visited her way back then. It was common for the house-proud Irish to keep property in the family, and hence I’d soon reenter the two-story red-brick home in whose wood-paneled rec-room we occasionally whiled away hours.

“But when I climbed up the grimy station stairs and surveyed the street, I suspected that some supernatural time-and-space warp had transported me to Islamabad. This couldn’t be Brooklyn.

“Women strode attired in hijabs and male passersby sported all manner of Muslim headgear and long flowing tunics. Kathy met me at the train and astounded me by pointing out long kurta shirts as distinguished from a salwar kameez. She couldn’t help becoming an expert. She’s now a member of a fast-dwindling minority because ‘people are running away. We’re among the last holdouts of our generation. My kids have fled’.

“Pakistani and Bangladeshi groceries lined the main shopping drag, and everywhere stickers boldly beckoned: ‘Discover Jesus in the Koran’. An unremarkable low-slung building on the corner of Kathy’s block was now dominated by an oversized green sign identifying it as Masjid Nur al-Islam (the Light of Islam Mosque) and announcing that ‘only Allah is worthy of worship and Muhammad is his LAST prophet’. Here too Christians were urged to ‘turn to the Koran’ if they were ‘genuinely faithful to Jesus’.

“It wasn’t hard to identify the remaining non-Muslim residences. Kathy’s was typical. A huge American flag fluttered demonstratively in the manicured front yard, accompanied by a large cross on the door and an assortment of patriotic/jingoistic banners.‘We’re besieged,” she explained. ‘Making a statement is about all we can do. They aren’t delighted to see our flag wave. This is enemy territory’.”

Sarah Honig in the Jerusalem Post, 7 July 2008