NYC Hails Muslim 'Good Samaritan'
By Alastair Lawson
A Muslim Bangladeshi student was honored by the mayor of New York on Wednesday for helping three Jewish people who were being beaten up.
Hassan Askari has been described as a "latter-day Good Samaritan" for coming to the aid of the three, who were attacked earlier this month.
A gang yelling anti-Semitic slogans had assaulted them on the city's subway.
His intervention left him with a possible broken nose, a stitched lip, bruises and two black eyes.
But it was sufficient for the attackers to turn their attention on him and allow one of those who was being attacked to raise the alarm and call the police.
"I was brought up to believe that you cannot walk away from an incident like this," he told the BBC.
"I felt I could not just stand there and watch these people being beaten up without doing anything to help.
"I believe we are all members of one family, and my religion teaches me always to come to the aid of my fellow man in distress."
The slightly-built accountancy student - who comes from an aristocratic Bengali family - was traveling from home on 9 December when he saw the attack take place on a crowded train.
Mr Askari has three forefathers who were knighted by British monarchs during the days of the Raj and is a member of the Dhaka Nawab family, an important political dynasty in the Indian subcontinent.
Around 10 people were attacking the three Jews after an argument had broken out.
"As the quarrel turned progressively more violent, scores of people on the train ignored the fight and didn't want to have anything to do with it," said Marc Scheier, a rabbi from the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, who presented Mr Askari with a bravery award earlier this month.
"Mr Askari - like the Good Samaritan - was the only person brave enough to intervene.
"The symbolism of his action at Christmas time is striking - a foreign Muslim coming to the aid of three Jews in an act of kindness and cooperation.
"People often forget that Judaism and Islam aren't so far apart as the radicals from both sides would have us believe. We are both Abrahamic religions and in many respects share a common faith."
Mr Askari said that he was "overwhelmed" by the publicity his actions have generated, and "embarrassed" that the American press have labeled him a "hero of the city".
"I have friends who are Jews, Christians and Buddhists and would have acted in the same way if they were victims of an unprovoked attack," he said.
Rabbi Scheier said that he could tell from injuries sustained by one of the three victims that it was a "brutal and extremely violent" attack which would have required "immense courage" from Mr Askari to get involved in.
"He is such a humble and modest man blessed with the most extraordinary bravery," he said.
Ten people have been arrested in connection with the attack and three of them have appeared in court charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
The student - whose mother, father and younger brother live in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka - says that his long term aim is to return to his beloved home country where he grew up as a child.
"Home is where the heart is and at least there is no subway there," he said. (Courtesy BBC)