PATERSON — A Clifton man who allegedly threw lit firecrackers outside a synagogue and yelled “Allahu Akbar” — an Islamic phrase meaning “God is greater” — pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of bias intimidation.
Rizek Musheisen, 21, appeared in Passaic County Superior Court before Judge Scott Bennion.
Police arrested Musheisen in April. He allegedly threw firecrackers outside the Ahavas Israel Synagogue at 181 Van Houten Ave. in Passaic, police there said.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office has offered Musheisen a plea deal that would give him an 18-month sentence for pleading guilty to one of the bias intimidation charges. Harley Breite, Musheisen’s attorney, said they wouldn’t consider the offer.
“My client is not a racist,” Breite said. “He shouldn’t be imprisoned.”
Breite said the case was personal for him. He was a member of Ahavas Israel as a child and his father and grandfather are Holocaust survivors.
“When such allegations as these are made we need to think more of promoting understanding and reconciliation rather than demanding vengeance and harsh punishments,” he said.
Musheisen is free on bail and attending classes at Montclair State University, Breite said. He hopes to work as a teacher upon graduation.
Breite questioned why the other men in the car that took Musheisen to the synagogue, including the driver, weren’t charged.
“I’d like to know why, if this is a bias crime, the person who drove to the site who had to get out of the car as well as the passengers were not charged,” he said. “If a crime were committed, they would certainly be complicit.”
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Wednesday, September 2, 2015