LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Togetherness Prominent at Homeland Security Interfaith Council Meeting

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

The NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has an interfaith advisory council that meets every three months. Today it met at Drew University.

Many denominations are represented as is law enforcement. Participants say it’s valuable.

“We’ve had great discussions about supporting each other and our concerns. We’re very much concerned about Islamophobia as they are with antisemitism because the roots are the same and that’s hatred and oppression and intolerance and we can work together on that,” said Jacob Toporek, Executive Director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.

“It’s a great group and I think it’s going to help a great deal to solve a lot of problems by sitting together and just talking about what’s going on in New Jersey,” President of the American Muslim Union Mohamed Younes said.

“We work on this to build bridges between all the communities, from Muslims to Christian to Jewish and other ethnic groups,” said Khader Abuassab, founder of the American Arab Civic Organization. When asked how it was going he said, “It’s working but it takes time. Nothing happens overnight.”

“We need to stick together as faith leaders so we can send a powerful message that we are one voice united,”

Homeland Security director Chris Rodriguez opened the session, as the attack in Brussels is still high on people’s minds.

“I’m not today going to comment on some of the political rhetoric that’s taking place during a heated presidential campaign, but I will say is a little bit about our efforts. Over the last several years, and certainly in the dark days after 9/11, we have built relationships of trust with a variety of faith-based communities, not only the Muslim community, but the Jewish community, the Christian community, the Sikh community all of which are represented here,” said Rodriguez.

A briefing on the Brussels attack was closed to the media, but before the event we sat down with Rodriguez for this weekend’s “On The Record” program where he talked about a variety of topics including how security has changed after the Brussels attacks.