With just three weeks to go before Election Day, Muslim leaders and activists gathered in Brooklyn to rally for Bill de Blasio today, hoping their various grievances with the Bloomberg administration would be addressed by a more sympathetic mayor.
Standing in a park just beyond the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, the front-running Mr. de Blasio indicated he was indeed willing to listen to the community’s concerns, including honoring Muslim holidays in public schools.
“You know, for Muslim-American children, public schools are overwhelmingly where they go for their education,” he said. “We need to respond to their needs and all children’s needs … We have to respect people of Muslim faiths by providing the Eid school holidays for children in our school system.”
Drawing cheers of “B. D. B.,” Mr. de Blasio also expressed support for the Muslim community’s ongoing resistance to stop-and-frisk and fines on immigrant-run small businesses.
“We will make sure that any actions by our police department are vetted properly and following constitutional guidelines,” Mr. de Blasio declared. “It is the law of the land if there ever was a law of the land. Our Constitution teaches us the respect of individual rights and liberties.”
Though he didn’t initially address directly the NYPD’s controversial and extensive surveillance of local mosques–often cited by Muslim political activists as their leading concern–Mr. de Blasio expressed guarded criticism of the policy when asked. (The NYPD has said it simply engages in legal counter-terrorism efforts.)
“The most recent revelations were troubling–that the efforts and surveillance have to be based on specific information and obviously we need to go through a careful vetting process,” he told reporters. “What we do know for sure is that now we will have a strong and independent inspector general–the next mayor gets to name someone who will be a real leader, an unimpeachable voice to make sure proper procedure is followed in the NYPD.”
Activists speaking at the really said they expected their political might to be significant in the race.
“We’ll put our troops on the ground for him. We’ll make sure that not only will we win but we’ll send a strong message to New York City that this is a town for progressives,” one activist, Linda Sarsour, proclaimed. “We’re going to win. And we’re going to win big. And it’s going to be with the help and support of the Muslim community for Bill de Blasio.”