|Interfaith leaders and civil rights organizations gathered for a solidarity vigil following a digital truck harassment campaign organized by suspected Hindu supremacists outside several mosques in New Jersey|
NEW JERSEY – Leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu communities, as well as local elected officials and a representative from the US Attorney General’s Office, gathered at an interfaith solidarity event organized on Sunday, December 11 at the Muslim Center of Middlesex County (MCMC) in Piscataway, NJ, which was recently the target of religious harassment and bias-motivated intimidation.
On November 26, during a mosque event attended by 200 people, a digital billboard truck displaying images of 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai (India), circled around the parking lot twice. The truck stopped several times before leaving, an act that the local Muslim community has labeled as a clear attempt to harass and intimidate by the Hindu supremacist groups.
Co-organizers of the event included the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), the Islamic Circle of North America’s Council on Social Justice (ICNA CSJ), American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), and Hindus for Human Rights.
“We don’t know who committed the hate incident here at MCMC, but we do know that Hindu nationalists have perpetrated many such hate crimes and incidents in India and around this country and the world,” said Sunita Vishwanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights. “I am here to let you know that there are Hindus who do not stand for such violence and hate, who are centered in love and pluralism… We stand with you today and every day.”
“We strongly believe that these incidents, the August 14 incident which took place in Edison, the targeting of four mosques [in New Jersey], the targeting of six [other mosques] in Connecticut, all these incidents might be related,” said Rubinder Singh, representing Sikh Youth Group of New Jersey.Michael E. Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, stated that the federal office has, “no higher priority than keeping our communities safe and combating civil rights violations and discrimination.”
“We have a record of standing up against Islamophobia, and we will continue to do so. Where something falls within our federal enforcement authority, we will act,” said Campion, encouraging community members to report all incidents of hate and intimidation.
“The whole Jewish community stands with our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community in solidarity,” said Rabbi Robert Green of Congregation B’nai Israel in Basking Ridge, NJ. “All of these incidents that we have heard about and seen photos of should never happen.”Reverend Rick Morley of St Mark’s Episcopal Church shared a statement from Reverend William H. Stokes, the 12th and current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey: “All residents of New Jersey should be appalled by recent anti-Muslim activities that have taken place across our state in recent days and weeks, and be appalled as well at the precipitous rise in these overall.”
“I am daily appalled by the frightening rise of Islamophobia, antisemitism, bigotry, and intimidation that our country is seeing, which your mosques have seen so up close and personal in these last days,” Morley added.
|“I apologize because I had to hear about this incident of hate from your community and not from the news and not from other places,” said Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ. “This is a moment of hope, even in the starkness of hate, that we all can be gathered here together today.”|
“There is no room for religious intolerance,” said Kevin Lance, First Counselor of the presidency of the Morris County, New Jersey State Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We reiterate our desire to stand in solidarity with all of you in denouncing any form of religious intolerance.”
“Let us reject oppression in any form in building the beloved community. Let us strive to love all people, respect all people, and work for the good of all people,” said Beverly Digner, founder of the Diversity Coalition of Morris County and member of the Presbytarian Church in Morristown, NJ.
“When we came to know about this incident, we had a special prayer which we offered even today at our church,” said Pastor Amron Sharon, President of Alpha Ministries International, a Christian charity organization that runs projects in South Asia.Elected officials at the state level have also been vocal in condemning the act of intimidation. Shortly after the incident, Senator Bob Menendez, Governor Phil Murphy, and New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman LeRoy J. Jones, Jr. made statements conveying “disgust” over the incident and standing in solidarity with Muslims.
The Indian American Muslim Council reiterates calls by the NJ Muslim community to the Department of Justice, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough investigation in all incidents related to Hindu supremacist groups peddling hate and division in the US.