A suspected bias attack on four Jewish subway riders has resulted in a friendship between the Jewish victims and the Muslim college student who came to their aid.
Walter Adler is calling Hassan Askari a hero for intervening when Adler and three friends were assaulted on a subway train in lower Manhattan on Friday night.
The 20-year-old Askari, a Muslim from Bangladesh, said he tried to fight off the 10 attackers, giving Adler a chance to summon police by pulling an emergency brake.
"Eight men and two women have pleaded not guilty to assault, menacing and other charges in the case. Prosecutors have said the charges could be upgraded to hate crimes.
"That a random Muslim kid helped some Jewish kids, that's what's positive about New York," said Adler, 23, who suffered a broken nose and a lip wound.
"He's basically a hero. Hassan jumped in to help us."
But Askari, who is studying to be an accountant, shrugged off the praise.
"I just did what I had to do," he recalled. "My parents raised me that way."
Ten people were arrested in the underground attack on Friday night - including two men who have been arrested for race crimes before.
None of the suspects had been charged with a hate crime in the Q train attack as of last night, but the Brooklyn DA's Civil Rights Bureau is handling the case.
It all began when Adler, his girlfriend, Maria Parsheva, and two other pals boarded the subway at Canal Street bound for Brooklyn and someone in another group wished them "Merry Christmas."
Adler and his pal Angelica Krischanovich responded: "Happy Hanukkah."
Apparently, those were fighting words.
"They just came at us so fast. The first thing that came into my mind was, 'Yeah, this is going to be violent,' " said Parsheva, 20.
One of the group immediately hiked up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of Christ.
"He said, 'Happy Hanukkah, that's when the Jews killed Jesus,' " said Adler.
The group of about 14 men and women then allegedly began taunting Adler and his pals as "dirty Jews" and "Jew bitches."
Amid a huge scrum, Askari jumped in.
"I'm bleeding all over the place, there's lots of people, they're fighting with Hassan still, and I'm like, why isn't anyone else doing anything?" Adler said.
He pulled the emergency brake right before entering the DeKalb Avenue station.
Police came aboard and arrested 10 people, charging six with assault and four with unlawful assembly.
One of those collared straphangers yesterday denied making anti-Semitic taunts and said his mother is Jewish.
Joseph Jirovec, 19 - the son of a city firefighter who is currently serving in Iraq - has pleaded guilty to a 2005 bias crime against blacks.
"We are not racist against Jewish people. That whole hate-crime thing is ridiculous," the Brooklyn man said.
He claims Adler's group was drunk and taunted his group, and one yelled, "We killed Jesus."
Jirovec will soon begin serving six months for his role in the attack against four men in Gerritsen Beach.
"I'm trying to stay out of trouble," he said. "When I get out, I want to go into the military."
Please click on video