As presidential race kicks off, Newark religious leaders decry 'anti-Muslim rhetoric'

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 01, 2016

Imam Daud Haqq of the NIA Masjid & Community Center is surrounded by fellow religious leaders at a press conference to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric held Monday at Newark City Hall.

 

NEWARK — As the presidential race officially kicked off in Iowa Monday, religious leaders in this diverse city held a caucus of their own to denounce what they say is a growing wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric around the country.

The group of 25 leaders included ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others, all carrying the same message — Muslims are more than what you might think.

"Muslims have been in this city for decades. We jave become part and parcel of the fabric of society of Newark," said Daud Haqq, an imam at the NIA Masjid & Community Center and the president of the Imams Council of Newark.

"Whatever field that there is that brings production and growth to our society, the Muslims have been involved here in Newark."

Other speakers took direct aim at politicians such as Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who has said he would consider creating a national database of Muslims, forcing them to carry special IDs and even outright banning them from entering the United States.

"Candidates for the president of the United States, the highest office in the land, the leader of all American citizens, are saying with a straight face we need to bar Muslims from this country," said Rabbi Simon Rosenbach of Newark-based synagogue Ahavas Shalom.

"If you support a candidate of a position that excludes one group, you're going to be next. So we can't do that."

Several speakers acknowledged that much of the anti-Islamic sentiment to arise throughout the country has been in response to acts of terrorism and other violence carried out by terrorists around the world

According to Haqq, however, those groups are just as worthy of contempt as what he described s politicians looking to exploit their impact for political gain.

"Such a person or persons do not represent us," said Haqq. "There's no such thing as a Muslim terrorist. That's an oxymoron for us, because Islam does not teach that."

Data on religious populations is often unreliable, though a large number of Muslims live and worship in Newark, which is home to more than a half dozen mosques.

Mayor Ras Baraka was not in attendance at Monday's press conference, but issued a statement backing the group's message that people of all faiths were welcome in the city.

"In Newark, we are determined as a people, a City, and a community, to reject violence and killing in all its forms," he said.

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