By Briana Vannozzi
“I assure my fellow Americans that the American Muslims are like every American,” said Nihad Awad.
Standing side by side with jersey city leaders, the head of the Council on American-Islamic relations called for an end to rhetoric, he says, stirs anti-Muslim sentiments.
“Donald Trump has made vicious and unfounded claims against the American Muslim community,” Awad said.
He’s referring to the GOP presidential front runners remarks at a campaign rally. Trump called for surveillance of certain U.S. mosques.
“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down,” Trump said.
Today’s press conference was scheduled before the San Bernardino mass shooting and before the assailants’ religious affiliations were known, but in its wake the Muslim leaders’ message remained the same.
“You have to separate the individual from the belief. You cannot paint all Muslims with the same brush,” said Nadia Kahf.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was adamant that Trump’s claims about cheering Muslims were not true.
“With regard to police reports, there’s no media reports that would substantiate that claim. In the days after 9/11 there was obviously a lot of concern across the country, and accusations at that time were found to be unfounded actually,” Fulop said.
Islamic leaders say they’ve felt increased tensions following the statement. Fulop echoed that.
“City hall was inundated with hundreds of phone calls from across the country,” he said.
As the state’s second largest city with one of the most diverse populations, Fulop said law enforcement is in constant communication with faith-based leaders, with or without hints of hate crimes.
“Then we generally escalate increase police presence around them to make sure they feel protected, and to make sure that there’s no adverse reaction to the community here in Jersey City. So, that’s standard operating procedure for us. We continue to do that regardless of where the facts are today. If we feel that there is any degree of concern for our communities we respond to that,” Fulop said.
Islamic leaders invited elected officials and community members to visit a local mosque and get to know the people. They condemned the shootings and offered prayers, saying we need to learn in solidarity. Reminding everyone that with over eight million Muslims living in the U.S., they’re here to stay.