Muslims Hope for Better Relations with New Mayor

The North Bronx Islamic Center at 3156 Perry Ave. in the Bronx (Photo by Hakeem Muhammad via the Bronx Bureau)

Bronx Muslims are hoping Bill de Blasio will usher in a new era. (Photo by Hakeem Muhammad via the Bronx Bureau)

On Election Day, reporter Hakeem Muhammad of the Bronx Bureau spoke to Muslims in the Bronx who voiced their concerns about safety, surveillance and community relations. Most found promise in Bill de Blasio and hope he takes that extra step to reach out to their community.

Sheikh Masoud Iqbal, imam at the North Bronx Islamic Center, spoke of the need to stop the increasing crimes against Muslims. The police does pay attention to Muslims, just not in the right way, pointed out another interviewee.

Mohammed Chaudhry, 30, a restaurant owner in Parkchester, said the lack of police attention to Muslims’ safety fears stands in stark contrast to the NYPD’s constant surveillance of mosques and imams in New York.

“To be honest, I’m fine with this if everyone is being surveyed and not just us,” said Chaudhry.

Building on his campaign plans to end police surveillance and add two Muslim holidays to the school calendar, de Blasio should forge a personal relationship with the city’s Muslim community, said Ibrahim Gonja, 46, who runs the Bronx Islamic Cultural Center in Morris Heights.

“I tell Mr. de Blasio that he should go from mosque to mosque, knock on doors, sit down and listen. Don’t just have dinner with imams who want to talk for no clear reason,” said Gonja. “Then we will get some problems solved.”

The mayor-elect’s focus on issues pertinent to the community was what drove one voter, and likely others, to the polls.

The promises of solutions is why first-time voter Shah Rahman, 42, a clothing store cleric in Norwood, chose to support de Blasio over Joe Lhota. It was the first time he heard a government politician directly address the worries of Muslims.

“I’ve listened to him saying he will give us change. Let’s hope he does,” said Rahman.

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