Councilmembers pen letter of support for NYC’s ousted hate crimes czar

A group of City Council members has joined with community groups to protest the sudden firing in April of Hassan Naveed, who was executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.

A letter published Wednesday decried “the unjust and abrupt termination” of Naveed, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, with one Muslim elected official arguing it was part of a pattern of terminations targeting Muslim officials in the administration of Mayor Eric Adams.

The letter, addressed to the mayor, noted that Naveed’s firing on April 16 came at a tumultuous time, in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing war. It charged that the city was failing to protect all communities equally.

“In recent months, there has been a change in the administration’s approach with vulnerable communities, raising concerns about fair representation for all New Yorkers,” read the letter. “This occurs amid a heightened climate and a Middle East crisis that perpetuates Islamophobia, Antisemitism, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian sentiments.”

Aides to Adams did not immediately respond to the letter. In April, mayor’s spokesperson Kayla Mamelak told the New York Daily News, “it was determined that the important mission of this office should be led by someone who puts bringing hate crimes down first and themself second.”

According to NYPD statistics, hate crimes were up 56% year over year in March, with anti-Jewish crimes, 43, making up more than half the total number of the month’s total hate crimes , 75, up from 48 year over year.

There were five anti-Muslim hate crimes in March, up from zero a year ago, and 12 hate crimes linked to sexual orientation, up from four in March a year ago.

Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups across the region and nation have reported spikes in bias incidents since Oct. 7.

As of Wednesday the signatories to the letter comprised 17 councilmembers.

It was also signed by community groups including the Majlis Ash-Shura New York, which represents Muslims in the city, as well as the Arab American Association of New York, Bangladeshi-Americans for Political Progress and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families

Councilmember Shahana Hanif, a signatory and Muslim whose district is in Brooklyn, said Naveed’s termination had alarmed community organizations. She urged Adams to meet with the groups.

“Particularly now in response to Hassan being fired, these groups deserve to know what happens to their funding, what happens to the leadership of the Office of Cate Crime Prevention,” Hanif said in an interview, adding that Muslims are “less likely” to report hate incidents to the NYPD.

Hanif said Naveed was the third Muslim official she knew from the Adams administration who had been terminated without warning.

“Their firing is not public,” she said of the other two.

As of Wednesday, the website of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes continued to list Naveed as its executive director.

When reached by phone on Wednesday, Naveed declined to comment on the letter, referring all questions to his attorney, Luna Droubi, who could not immediately be reached by phone.

Earlier, in a phone interview the week after his termination, Naveed said he was considering legal action and that his firing was religiously motivated.

“The wrong that’s happened here is that I have been fired because of my Muslim name, my Muslim appearance and because of who I am,” he said.

In a 2022 interview with Gothamist, Naveed said he was profoundly shaped by the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“After 9/11, the number of hate crimes that impacted Muslim communities was really an eye opener to me,” said Naveed. “I was, I think, 15 years old at that time. I felt prior to that, that community was very invisible, being Muslim was invisible.”

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