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Neighbors Assert Jersey Muslims Against Bias

Neighbors Assert Jersey Muslims Against Bias
Yassine Elkaryani, Prospect Park Mayor Mohammed Khairullah, Islam Sery and Bader Risheg gathered in Hackensack on Nov. 19 to talk about helping other Muslims get involved in the community.

NEW JERSEY – As American Muslims ponder the consequences of a Trump presidency, the religious minority are getting an outpouring of support from other groups, including neighbors, clergy and Jewish leaders who recall a dark time when they were singled out.

“People have come to us, laypeople, who have said, ‘I’m Jewish, I’m Christian, I’m atheist. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know,’” James Sues, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-NJ, told NY Daily News on Tuesday, November 22.

Sues said support came in nearly 20 emails in the week after Donald Trump’s election, each asking: How can I help?

The letters came from a grant writer, a lawyer and an office worker, Muslims and non-Muslims, who wanted to show their support in a week when Muslim Americans saw reports about a rise in hate crimes.

The support came to calm Muslims who questioned whether Trump would carry out promises for proposals such as banning Muslim immigration or asking them to register with the government as a faith group.

Reports since Trump’s election, saying high-level appointees would include retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has called Islam a cancer, and Stephen Bannon, a man who ran anti-Muslim media outlet, added to Muslim fears.

Moreover, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump adviser, said he was drafting a proposal for a Muslim registry program that Trump talked about in his campaign.

At this time, support was flowing from different parties, who invited Sues and other advocates to speak at mosques and banquet halls to voice their concerns and to figure out their next step.

Gatherings included meetings in Paterson, Teaneck, Hackensack, Edison and other cities and towns across the state.

Alarm & Assurance

Yassine Elkaryani, Ahmed Abaras, Islam Sery and Bader Risheg gathered in Hackensack on Nov. 19 to talk about helping other Muslims get involved in the community. (Photo: VIOREL FLORESCU/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Yassine Elkaryani, Ahmed Abaras, Islam Sery and Bader Risheg gathered in Hackensack on Nov. 19 to talk about helping other Muslims get involved in the community. (Photo: VIOREL FLORESCU/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

The support comes at a time when American Muslims complain about rising rate of hate crimes, which rose 67 percent last year according to FBI data.

“I feel like I’m not recognized as an American, I’m recognized as just a Muslim,” said Samia Sheikh, a Rutgers student from Secaucus.

“And it also scares me because that is what happened in Germany with the Nazis and them making all Jewish residents register, and I feel that’s just the beginning of something that would become bigger against Muslims.”

Reem Salam, 34, of Paterson said Trump was casting suspicion on Muslims, experiencing this while she walked at the mall in her hijab in the days after the election.

“I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me,” she said.

Muslim Americans say that amid the national scrutiny on them, they are encouraged by the support they’re getting from different groups of people and from neighbors.

Mohammad Ali Chaudry, an organizer for a coalition of 150 Muslim groups across New Jersey, said he’s gotten strong support for his “I Stand With the Other” pledge, which asks people to denounce hate and bigotry when they see or hear it.

He created the pledge as an initiative of the New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee. Clergy, students and elected officials are among those who have signed, with interest growing after the election.

“People are realizing that this is going to affect not just the Muslim community,” said Chaudry, talking about the political climate.

“It’s going to affect everybody, including women, the LGBT community, minorities and Latinos.”

At a late-night meeting Saturday in Hackensack, a group of Muslim leaders talked about getting people involved in local politics and in their communities as a way to fight anti-Muslim bias.

“You need to be engaged, you need to be involved, you need not to be fearful but rather be proud of who you are. You have the same rights as anyone else,” Mohamed Khairullah, mayor of Prospect Park, who was at the meeting, said at the gathering.

Yassine Elkaryani, a community activist who called the meeting in Hackensack, tells people to have trust in American institutions and not to fear.

“Whether there are extreme or right-wing candidates being appointed now, I think America is greater than this,” said Elkaryani, who is from Teaneck.


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