A Call For Unity Amid Anxiety

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The Islamic Center of Long Island will host a public forum on Dec. 1 with Long Island community groups and law enforcement agencies to address post-election tension, religious freedom and ethnic targeting.
The Islamic Center of Long Island will host a public forum on Dec. 1 with Long Island community groups and law enforcement agencies to address post-election tension, religious freedom and ethnic targeting.

Houses of worship from denominations across Long Island are addressing the election of Donald Trump with a call for unity.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 700 incidents against immigrants, African Americans, Jews, Muslims and women in the week following Election Day, as well as approximately 30 anti-Trump incidents.

Nearly 40 percent of the incidents occurred in educational (K-12 schools and university/college) settings, with about 55 occurrences being reported in New York. Swastikas were found on the walls of a bathroom in Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington and a theater storage room at Northport High School and fliers promoting the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) were found on parked cars in Patchogue.

Alan Z. Fromm, president of Young Israel of Plainview, said that any physical and verbal harassment, vandalism and graffiti targeting religious groups is troubling and disturbing.

“We at the Young Israel of Plainview feel particularly fortunate to have the Nassau County Police Department and the Town of Oyster Bay as partners in our work to reduce hate crimes and increase public awareness of the impact of these hate crimes,” said Fromm. “The Young Israel of Plainview will be reaching out to all of the religious organizations in Plainview to join together in raising awareness of politically- and religiously-motivated violence and help people stay safe in these troubling times.”

After a church’s sign was defaced with racist rhetoric, church members came together to cover it up with a message of love.  (Photo by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington)
After a church’s sign was defaced with racist rhetoric, church members came together to cover it up with a message of love. (Photo by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington)

Dr. Faroque Khan, a member of the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) board of trustees and one of the mosque’s founders, said since the election, the Muslim community has expressed a lot of anxiety and apprehension. During a recent hour-long forum at the mosque, parents and children expressed their concerns and fears.

“It’s just about the only conversation that’s going on now,” Khan said. “There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of angst.”

The last time this type of feeling dominated the community was during 9/11, said Khan. The anxiety and fear reverberates through all age groups, but Khan said women and children are the ones who are most affected by the harassment.

“The kids watch TV, they hear stories, bullying is going on,” Khan said. “And you hear about women on the train who are getting bullied and shouted at. It’s typically women who wear the hijab that are bearing the brunt of it.”

Immigrant children are also feeling the strain. With Trump promising to deport 3 million immigrants, the future is uncertain for those who are illegal, have undocumented family or are under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives children born in the United States to undocumented parents temporary protection to work and obtain a driver’s license.

“Children are the hardest hit. They are extremely anxious,” said Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, a nonprofit organization that provides online resources to educate people on immigration policy and their rights. “If you’re a little kid and your parents are undocumented, what happens to you?”

In the midst of the tension, there have also been moments of unity. Across the country, Americans are standing together to denounce acts of violence. When vandals defaced a park in Brooklyn with swastikas and graffiti, it was quickly painted over and replaced with paper hearts and flowers. Church members came together in Maryland to paper over a sign promoting a Spanish-language service that was defaced with “Trump Nation: Whites Only,” with a sign that said “Love Wins.” At the University of Michigan, 200 non-Muslim students stood guard around the Muslim Student Association as they held a prayer.

Law enforcement agencies and government officials have denounced the harassment and violence, with the New York State District Attorneys League of Immigrant Affairs reassuring immigrants that they have “the same rights under New York State Law as any other person, no matter what your immigrant status may be.” Governor Andrew Cuomo has also launched a toll-free hotline (888-392-3644) where people can report incidents of bias and discrimination, and file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights.

“Demonizing our differences injects a social poison into the fabric of our nation. Especially this country, because this is a nation built on differences,” Cuomo said in a speech in Harlem last week, where he called for unity in the fight for tolerance. “The separation is a poison and it has to stop and it has to stop now and New York is going to lead the way in showing the way for positive growth. We remember what made this nation the greatest nation on this earth. We are going to keep that dream alive and we are going to fight to keep that dream alive and work to make it a reality for all of us.”

—With Additional Reporting by Steve Mosco

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Betsy Abraham is senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times. She also writes for Long Island Weekly.

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