PATERSON – In the wake of terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump last week called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
On Friday, New Jersey officials and Islamic community leaders met at the Islamic Community Center of Passaic County in Paterson to denounce that rhetoric and denounce those who are perpetrating the acts of violent extremism.
In attendance were Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35), Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-28), Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, Passaic County freeholders John Bartlett and Pat Lepore, Paterson Councilmen Andre Sayegh and Ken Morris and Passaic County Democratic organizer Al Abdel-Aziz. They all joined Imam Mohammad Qatanani in support.
“This is the time for us all to come together,” said Qatanani. “What happened in California, what happened in Baghdad, what happened in Paris, that is not Islamic. These actions are not only non-Islamic; they are not human. This is America, which we know and love. We are all one.”
According to Saudino, the issue of anti-Muslim sentiment cannot become accepted.
“I am the only Republican here,” he said, gesturing to the mostly-Democratic coalition of officials who went to the mosque to show support. “I have to say, as a Republican, that I don’t agree with what Donald Trump is saying.”
In May, there will be a battle in Paterson’s sixth ward between Sayegh and Abdel-Aziz as they both pursue the council position there. Both were in attendance at Friday’s event.
“Let it be known and clear that this country is better because Muslims decided to call America home,” Sayegh said. Ward 6 is heavily Muslim and, though the Islamic Center does not fall in his district, Sayegh said he decided to come out and support the event because many of his constituents worship there.
Though he seems to be positioning himself to represent Sayegh’s ward on the council, for now one of those constituents is Abdel-Aziz, the apparent pick of Paterson Mayor Joey Torres for the council seat.
“I am a member of this mosque,” Abdel-Aziz told PolitickerNJ. “This is not a Democrat of Republican thing, this is an American issue now.”
Though he could not attend, a statement was read on behalf of Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-9).
“In the land of the free and home of the brave, it is shameful that there are those who seek to divide us with hateful rhetoric,” Pascrell’s statement said. “This undermines our values as a people and ignores the extraordinary contributions that Muslim Americans have made in our country.”
On Thursday, a Rutherford man pleaded guilty to attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Though plans to bomb Times Square and the World Trade Center never materialized, Nader Saadeh claimed that he and his friends discussed the possibility of waging such attacks.
“It is not enough to condemn it, we have to do something,” said Imam Qatanani of plots such as these. “We want to save and protect this country and the entire world.”
Friday’s event was held after the weekly Friday Prayers.
“It was both an uplifting and somber event,” Sumter told PolitickerNJ in the aftermath. “Uplifting because of prayer, but somber because of why we were there.”