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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Blessed Be the Muslim Peacemaker

Usually, I go out of my way to avoid giving rapacious media baron Rupert Murdoch any of my hard-earned cash.

Still, Mr. Murdoch's U.S. tabloid -- the delightfully unhinged New York Post -- remains a guilty pleasure from my days as a working-class New Yorker two decades ago.

It's easier to justify a lingering fascination with the scrappy tabloid by copping to reading it online. It spares me the indignity of paying $1.50 picking it up at newsstands this far west of the Hudson.

When I saw Wednesday's edition with its intriguing headline "Peace Train: Muslim Rescues Jews from Subway Thugs," I had to pluck down the cash. Who can remember the last time the Post had anything good to say about Muslims on its cover?

The full-page cover photo alone was worth the price of selling my soul to Rupert Murdoch for one afternoon.

The photo featured two young men in a warm embrace. Walter Adler, the taller of the two, had facial bruises, a busted lip and melancholy eyes that somehow communicated a history of persecution that predated his 23 years on Earth.

Nestled in the crook of the Hunter College student's right arm is 20-year-old Hassan Askari, a Bangladeshi accounting student. The black eyes he earned coming to the rescue of four Jewish passengers on the subway last week didn't obscure his humanity for a second.

The two young college students looked like survivors of an epic battle -- because they were. Though strangers until last week, the two stood together against racist idiots on a crowded train.

Like many holiday stories in the Naked City, this one began on an innocuous note that got more bizarre by the minute.

According to news reports, Mr. Adler, his girlfriend Maria Parsheva, their friend Angelica Krischanovich and an unidentified fourth person boarded the Q train on Canal Street bound for Brooklyn.

Someone from the group that was later arrested shouted "Merry Christmas" to the quartet when they entered. The four returned the greeting with "Happy Hanukkah." The mob, reportedly drunk and hostile, perceived this as yet another salvo in the never-ending war against Christmas.

One guy rolled up his sleeves to show his Christ tattoo. According to Mr. Adler, the tattooed man mocked them and said: "Happy Hanukkah, that's when the Jews killed Jesus."

To prove they were more in tune with the spirit of Kristallnacht than Christmas, the group of abusive men and women surrounded the quartet and shouted "dirty Jews" and "Jew bitches" before breaking Walter Adler's nose, causing him to gush blood like a geyser.

Hassan Askari couldn't bear to watch it anymore. Alone among his fellow passengers, he rushed to the defense of four Jews being assaulted by "defenders" of Christmas. He got beat up for his trouble.

Still, Mr. Askari's intervention gave Mr. Adler a chance to pull the emergency cord that alerted the cops at the next station.

When the Q pulled into the station, the cops were waiting. They made 10 arrests.

Joseph Jirovec, one of the men arrested for assaulting the quartet and Mr. Askari, insists that he's not anti-Semitic. Mr. Jirovec said that he and his friends were assaulted by Mr. Adler, whose "gang" allegedly entered the car shouting "we killed Jesus." This, as we all know, is a common practice of Jews in New York City.

The eight men and two women arrested last week pleaded not guilty to assault. Both Mr. Jirovec and his friend Zachary Rogalski have been arrested for hate crimes in the past. Mr. Jirovec is scheduled to begin serving six months in jail for a 2006 hate crime against two black men.

Incredibly, both Jirovec and Rogalski claim that despite how the situation looks to non-haters, they aren't "anti-Jewish." Both thugs are now claiming Jewish ancestry. Mr. Jirovec has a particularly novel way of identifying with his victims after the fact. Besides his mother being "half-Jewish," he also claims that he's not anti-black just because he's going to jail for beating up black people.

Mr. Jirovec told the Post's rival the New York Daily News that he couldn't be biased against blacks because he's a member of the predominantly black Bloods gang.

Only in America could a racist waging war against those who would "dishonor" Christmas end up waging war against himself.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Tony Norman

Tony Norman

Tony Norman is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. He was once the Post-Gazette’s pop music/pop culture critic and appeared as an expert on cultural issues on local radio talk shows and television programs. In 1996, he began writing an award-winning general interest column, which, he says, rejuvenated his enthusiasm for the kind of journalism that makes a difference.

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