Muslims respond to Trump with solidarity and hope | Faith Matters

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SHAFAQNA – What amazes me about the New Jersey Republican Primary earlier this month was that 356,697 people voted for Donald Trump.

Granted, John Kasich and Ted Cruz were out of the race yet still on the ballot.

But do people even hear what Trump says?  His words of exclusion towards Muslims and Mexicans, for example, have consequences.  And local Muslims and interfaith leaders and clergy are responding not with similar words of hate, but solidarity and hope.

“He is unbelievable,” said Miriam Abassi a leader in the North Hudson Islamic Center since 1999.  She described his words as “very ridiculous and insulting to the Muslim community.”  And she said that since most Muslim women wear the hijab or headdress, they are easy targets.

Last Monday Jessica Abdelnabbi-Berrocal was heading to work at City Hall on Grove Street in Jersey City when a driver stopped and yelled at her out of his car, “You (expletive) terrorist.”   She took it in stride but admitted it hurt.  But she is most worried about her three daughters, especially her 13-year-old.  “I teach them love, peace and religion.”  So they become afraid when Muslims are harassed.

And these reactions are not only felt by Muslims.  People of all faiths are responding to the worst Presidential campaign in recent memory.  This Thursday evening at 7:30, the Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Hudson County will release a statement signed by 41 men and women, clergy and religious leaders stating “that recent events in our nation and area indicate attitudes that are not representative of our historic and constitutional principles.”

They will join the Muslim iftah or breaking of the fast for Ramadan that is being held in the plaza in front of City Hall at 7 p.m.  Men and women will sit on separate sides and share in traditional foods. 

The Muslim Federation of New Jersey this afternoon said the religious group condemns yesterday’s mass shooting that killed 49 people inside an Orlando night club.

Rev. Eugene Squeo, the founder of the Sisterhood/Brotherhood after 9/11, said that members, who meet several times a year, are “alarmed by incidents of violence and hate in our communities.”  He cited the opposition to the Bayonne mosque and similar situations in Bedminster and Bridgewater and in society at large.  “Families are afraid of what they hear on TV,” said the retired co-pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, Jersey City, and a prominent lawyer.

Their statement goes on, “It is not the Islamic faith that is our enemy, but rather hatred and terrorism. We repudiate such hostility and hatred aimed at Muslims in and beyond our community.”

A coalition of national Catholic groups has also released a similar statement. Among them are the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Franciscan Action Network, Ignatian Solidarity Network, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Pax Christi.  They stated, “We lament the bigotry and Islamophobia coming from some politicians and commentators during the 2016 Presidential election cycle.”  Their assessment concluded that the prejudice “shows how far we still need to go as a society to realize our core value that each of us is created equal. We need to break our chronic pattern of de-humanizing groups of people.”

Abdelnabbi-Berrocal crosses into several groupings.  She was raised Catholic as a Hispanic and converted to Islam in 2001.  She worships at the Masjid Al Tawheed on West Side Avenue in Jersey City, which is rebuilding after a tragic fire ruined the mosque.  The feeling is that when one religion is scapegoated, all are under attack.

santora muslim2.jpgAhmed Shedeed signs the statement outside of Jersey City City Hall as Jessica Abdelnabbi-Berrocal, Rupert Verano and Rev. Eugene Squeo look on.

Aly Bushrui is a Baha’i, which believes an amalgam of all the major faiths.  They are quite small in Jersey City – about 35 – and worship in members’ homes.  He thinks it is unfortunate that terrorists “hide behind Islam.”  He belongs to the Hudson group to “keep harmony and build good relations” among all peoples and faiths.

Abassi believes that Trump’s rhetoric has only moved more Muslims to register to vote and said that her very popular Union City mosque encourages members to do so. They have tables after Friday worship where people can register and they also resort to Facebook to raise civic awareness.

The Hudson group will invite all people to sign the pledge Thursday night.  “We pledge to continue to foster interreligious relationships based on friendship, not fear; and to serve the common good by honoring racial and religious diversity.”

The national group said, “Now is the time for all Americans, especially people of faith, to speak out and build friendships with our Muslim neighbors.”  Though the Orlando massacre is temporarily overshadowing the Muslim solidarity movement, the clergy hope many people turn out Thursday night to break bread and join hands in friendship.

Abassi has advice for Trump, “I wish he would stop. We’re American as much as he is.”  Actually, his words reveal he’s not as American as he claims.

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