Four high school students in Staten Island have been arrested and charged with assault and aggravated harassment as hate crimes for their roles in the continuing, yearlong abuse of a Muslim classmate. What's going on with New York City?

We don't have the statistics to back up the Daily News' claim that we're seeing a "disturbing spike in hate crimes across the city," but that's what it feels like, between the gay-torture gang in the Bronx and the assault at the gay landmark Stonewall Inn. In this case, a 16-year-old high school student named "Kristian" says he was beaten up, verbally abused and spat on almost daily between October of 2009 and the end of the academic year in the spring.

Kristian, the son of Trinidadian immigrants, says he met his alleged tormenters at the Edwin Markham Intermediate School, and began with homophobia before moving on to a different kind of bigotry:

Kristian said the bullying began when the thugs first called him gay and quickly escalated to him being battered for his Muslim heritage and blamed for terrorist bombings...

"Four kids punched me everywhere. They would spit in my face, and kick and punch me. I had injuries," Kristian said.

Once he was kicked so hard he had blood in his urine and had to go and see his doctor.

Though the assault stopped when the school year ended, Kristian ran into two of the suspected bullies in one of his classes at Port Richmond High School, where they are all first years. Since then, he hasn't gone to class.

As with the other recent high-profile cases of hate-driven assault in New York City, the suspects are young: Three 14-year-olds and one 15-year-old. The Bronx gang accused of torturing people it believed were gay ranged in age from only 16 to 23, and then two men charged with hate crimes in connection with the Stonewall Inn assault are 17 and 21. (A 20-year-old was arrested and charged with a hate crime for assaulting a gay man in Chelsea that same weekend).

Where could such young and impressionable minds get the idea that being violent toward gays and Muslims is acceptable? Surely not from a political culture that produces candidates willing to describe homosexuality as not "equally valid and successful" an "option" as heterosexuality! And who would blame the forces marshaled against the Muslim community center located in Lower Manhattan for hate crimes against New York Muslims? If anything, they should be commended for the sensitivity and tact with which they've fought the moderate Muslim cleric attempting to build bridges between faiths. No, it must be rap music that cause teenagers to violently harm other human beings! And video games!