Queens Muslims See an Uncertain Future

Activist Ali Najmi (left), Assembly member David Weprin (looking down), Public Advocate Letitia James (second row, center) and Council member Barry Grodenchik (center) are joined by community members at a Nov. 16 press conference calling for unity. (Photo courtesy of City Councilman Barry Grodenchik via QNS)

Activist Ali Najmi (left), Assembly member David Weprin (looking down), Public Advocate Letitia James (second row, center) and Council member Barry Grodenchik (center) are joined by community members of Muslim and Sikh faiths at a Nov. 16 press conference calling for unity. (Photo courtesy of City Councilman Barry Grodenchik via QNS)

A spate of hate crimes in NYC and across the U.S. after Election Day has provoked fear among Muslim Americans, many of whom live in Queens. This week, papers in the borough reported on reaction from local community leaders and public officials to these incidents, as well as other matters of concern to the community.

Civil rights activist and attorney Ali Najmi tells Anthony O’Reilly of Queens Chronicle that people are “nervous and uncertain.” He added, “It’s really scary to see that Islamophobia is a quality people are willing to vote for.”

Activist Richard David said the proposed Muslim registry is a big concern among Muslims in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. “That’s one of the things he has not really disassociated himself from,” he said.

David noted that when it comes to Queens, the immigration policies of the president-elect could affect thousands of Muslims, particularly from the Caribbean.

“The Guyanese are the second largest group of immigrants in Queens and the third largest in the city and many of them are Muslims,” he said. “A lot of them are worried about what might happen.”

The Press Of Southeast Queens reached out to the borough’s Muslim leaders, including Imam Hafiz Zafeer Ali of the Islamic Circle of North America. He told reporter Trone Dowd he was “very sad” the morning after Election Day but still, he said “he was willing to take a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

“We have to accept Donald Trump as our president,” he said. “As a community member, as a Muslim, as an Imam, as a South Asian, as an Indian, I still have a lot of worries as to what will happen in the future because of all of his comments and remarks that Trump has made. But at the very least he has since come forward and said that he will serve everyone and everyone will be secure. I have little confidence but it is still something.”

As for the hate attacks on community members, he said, “It started the next morning [after Election Day].”

“My colleague’s neighbor had comments made about her.” He said that the teenage girl was told to take off her hijab by someone in the community. The Imam also said that some of his fellow Muslims have sent him pictures of bumper stickers, shirts and other forms of expression demeaning the Muslim world.

He said that moving forward, he’d like to see the Muslim world as well as the Black, Hispanic and other minority communities reach out and try their best to voice the opinions of the two parties. He said that not having Muslims embedded in the Republican party is the reason why some like Trump can rise to power unchecked. He said that it is also dangerous to have one party be the de facto representatives of minority Americans everywhere.

At a Nov. 16 press conference, public officials in Queens, joined by Public Advocate Letitia James and borough residents, spoke out against the rash of bias attacks. In a story for QNS, Robert Pozarycki reports that the officials – among them Council members Barry Grodenchik and I. Daneek Miller and Assembly members Ron Kim and David Weprin – called for unity, particularly in a county as diverse as Queens.

“We have just come through a national election in which the rhetoric from one of the candidates, who is now the president-elect, reached depths never before plumbed by a major party candidate for public office,” Grodenchik said. “I wanted to get the community together to say that we stand together in combating hateful rhetoric and actions. Queens is one of the most diverse counties in the United States, a place where we celebrate and encourage tolerance and diversity.”

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