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Anti-boycott laws are a dystopian nightmare

Anti-boycott laws are a dystopian nightmare

The right to boycott was once enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982, but the recent passing of anti-BDS laws in several U.S. states shows how fragile basic civil rights have become.

A Mondoweiss Exclusive Article

Published October 4th, 2022 | By Hamzah Khan

Few things have as much bipartisan support in the U.S. as unconditional support for Israel. Ironically, while criticisms of the U.S. government are protected by the First Amendment, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have made it nearly impossible to criticize Israel without facing tangible consequences like public smearing, and even financial loss. Across the U.S., 34 states — from “blue” states like California and New York to “red” states like Texas and South Carolina — have passed some form of legislation that makes it illegal for the state to contract with businesses and individuals who participate in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a grassroots movement founded by Palestinian civil society that seeks to pressure Israel to abide by international law.

Boycotting now carries a price

Under the various iterations of anti-boycott laws across the U.S., individuals and businesses that do partake in the BDS movement risk financial retaliation, like Unilever did in New Jersey, or public smear campaigns and accusations of antisemitism. Proponents of the anti-boycott law claim that it combats antisemitism, but most of the laws explicitly target the BDS movement, which condemns antisemitism. These anti-BDS laws have been wielded to disastrous effect, with state governments targeting individuals and companies alike who seek to exercise their right to boycott an apartheid state. By punishing boycotts of Israel, U.S. legislators encroach on Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Many of the state anti-BDS laws require anyone contracting with the state or any federal employees to sign a non-boycott pledge. Just weeks ago, in June, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an anti-BDS law in Arkansas, the first and most senior court to do so thus far.

A local newspaper, The Arkansas Times, was required to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in order to run ads with the University of Arkansas, a state-funded public university. The newspaper refused to sign the pledge on grounds that it violated free speech. Initially, The Arkansas Times won their case in the district court. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed the decision and upheld the law. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the Arkansas case or even a similar one in the next few years, there is a high probability that the conservative majority will concur with the conservative Eighth Circuit’s opinion and uphold these laws, permanently crippling free speech in this country.

In Georgia, just a few states east of Arkansas, journalist Abby Martin was required to sign a non-boycott pledge in order to speak at a public university, which she refused. And in Arizona, Dr. Hatem Bazian and the American Muslims for Palestine, a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to educating the American public on Palestine, were required to sign a non-boycott pledge in order to hold an event at Arizona State University. The Council on American Islamic Relations filed separate lawsuits on behalf of both plaintiffs. In both cases, the courts struck down the anti-BDS laws on free speech grounds.

In Kansas and Texas, individuals contracting with public schools were also required to sign the pledge.

One Kansas woman, Esther Koontz, sued Kansas Commissioner of Education Randall Watson after she was required to sign a pledge to not participate in boycotts of Israel. The state refused to contract with her when she did not sign the pledge.

In Texas, victims of Hurricane Harvey were required to sign the anti-BDS pledge in order to receive aid from the government. Phil King, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, later apologized for the way the law was implemented, calling it a “misunderstanding.” But just about a year later, Bahia Amawi, a child language pathologist, lost her job after nine years of employment when she refused to sign a new contract that included an addendum that would prohibit her from boycotting Israel.

Both Kansas and Texas later amended their laws: in Kansas, the anti-boycott certification requirement no longer applies to individuals or sole proprietors — now only applying to companies if they conduct more than $100,000 worth of business with the state.

However, companies that conduct more than said amount of business with the state are required to sign a certification stating that they are “not engaged in a boycott of goods or services from Israel that constitute an integral part of business conducted or sought to be conducted with the state.” Similarly in Texas, the anti-boycott law now excludes companies with nine or fewer full-time employees and contracts under $100,000. Both CAIR and its Houston chapter sued the state of Texas last year to expand the definition of a “company” to “between a governmental entity and a company with 10 or more full-time employees, and has a value of $100,000 or more that is to be paid wholly or partly from public funds of the governmental entity.” The state has appealed the temporary injunction granted, and it is now up to the Fifth Circuit this November.

Many states have also passed laws that pose financial burdens on organizations that allegedly boycott Israel through the creation of blacklists, pension fund divestments, and prohibition of business contracts. Most of the laws target companies that states deem to be engaged in a boycott of Israel, regardless of whether they actually are. In Illinois, the state created blacklists of companies, not only for boycotting Israel on political grounds, but for even refusing to do business with Israel for commercial reasons. Many of the companies on the list were perplexed as to why they could no longer contract with the state as they held no political positions against Israel.

In New Jersey and New York, both states divested state pension funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, after the ice cream maker announced that it would no longer operate in illegal Israeli settlements. Interestingly, this action was considered a boycott of Israel despite the fact that Ben & Jerry’s continued to operate in the rest of the country.

In Houston, the Council on American Islamic Relations sued the city and Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, on behalf of A&R Engineering, a firm that frequently contracted with the city but refused to sign the anti-BDS pledge. The suit was successful, and they won an injunction against the city to waive the requirement. The fact that this clear political act was punished by so many states shows that the government can use the full force of the state to stifle political dissent and find applause within both parties. The majority of anti-BDS laws prohibit states from investing in companies that boycott Israel, significantly hindering the ability of activists to pressure companies to support human rights.

The fact that so many U.S. states have decided to fall on the side of apartheid is a dystopian foreshadowing of the ease with which fundamental rights can be taken away.

While most of the anti-BDS laws have been struck down in court when challenged, the latest ruling from the Eighth Circuit may represent a disturbing shift towards stricter government enforcement against movements that support Palestinian rights. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton recently introduced an anti-BDS law in Congress that would make it easier for states to implement stricter anti-BDS laws.

Seeing that anti-BDS laws have broad bipartisan support, the likelihood of this bill becoming law is very high.

The right to boycott was protected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co in 1982, in which the court upheld the right of the NAACP to boycott primarily white institutions that segregated between whites and people of color.

Boycotts have long been instrumental to political movements from the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. to the anti-apartheid boycotts of South Africa. The fact that so many U.S. states have decided to fall on the side of apartheid is a dystopian foreshadowing of the ease with which fundamental rights can be taken away.

US Hindu nationalist groups: What could this mean for Muslims and minorities?

US Hindu nationalist groups: What could this mean for Muslims and minorities?

A The New Arab Exclusive Article.

Published September 27th, 2022 | By Dina Sayedahmed and Hamzah Khan

As millions of Muslims in India face the threat of genocide under Modi’s government, Dina Sayedahmed and Hamzah Khan warn about the dangerous impact of affiliated Hindu nationalist groups on minorities in New Jersey, US.

With pockets of Middlesex County in New Jersey dubbed “Little India,” the area has long boasted of a thriving Indian American population. As a whole, New Jersey is home to at least 10% of US migrants from India, according to a study by Migration Policy. Middlesex County, specifically, is among the top four counties where immigrants from India have resettled, second only to Santa Clara County in California.

Not only has the Indian American diaspora brought forth a rich diversity to the region’s cultural and business centres, but schools in the area also rank in the top percentages in the state of New Jersey. Real estate networks sell Edison as a town with a booming economy, progressing from being a manufacturing city to one that offers technological and innovation-based business ventures.

More recently, however, the area’s politics and cultural hubs have been overtaken by Hindutva groups — a political ideology that refers to the predominant form of Hindu nationalism in India. This has deepened a rift between Middlesex County’s Indian American diaspora, and yielded a less optimistic future, from cultural and heritage celebrations in the area to local elections.

 ”Hindu nationalist groups hosted then-Republican nominee Donald Trump in Edison for a charity event in the weeks before the 2016 election. At the event, he praised India for helping fight terrorism, a phrase that has become code for institutionalising Islamophobia through crackdowns on Muslims.”

Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, Hindutva has steadily risen to prominence in India. His ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stokes hatred of Muslims and other minority groups in India through its policies and rhetoric.

One of the BJP’s former social media heads, Arun Yadav, had likened one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Kaabah in Makkah, to an ice cube in a glass of whiskey. Another former BJP leader, Nupur Sharma, who was a spokesperson for the party, made anti-Islamic remarks on a televised debate that triggered demonstrations across the globe. Though both BJP leaders were consequently suspended, the comments themselves are a window into the prevailing culture within the BJP, which has traveled to and infiltrated some pockets of the Indian American diaspora through groups like the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC), the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OSFBJP), the Indian Businesses Association in NJ (IBA), and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS).

One group in particular, the IBA, has been especially active in New Jersey’s Middlesex County. During the India Independence Day parade, an annual event organised in the area – which is normally a celebration of Indian culture and heritage – the IBA decided to include a bulldozer decorated with images of known Hindu nationalists and BJP leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. What may seem like an awkward but otherwise unproblematic place for a construction vehicle, bulldozers carry different implications in the context of India.

Over the past few months especially, bulldozers have become a vehicle of injustice in India and a symbol of anti-Muslim animus. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, specifically, is infamous for ruthlessly implementing “bulldozer justice,” a term coined by Amnesty International that refers to India’s unlawful demolitions of minority groups’ homes. His supporters refer to him as “Baba Bulldozer.”

In the wake of the parade, and after mounting pressure from advocacy groups including CAIR-NJ, both NJ senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, condemned the IBA’s actions. However, Edison council member Ajay Patil — who is also a Vice President of the IBA — dismissed the anti-Muslim animus behind the use of the bulldozer.

While the inclusion of a bulldozer at the India Independence Day parade sounded alarms across the state, the infiltration of Hindutva into local NJ communities long predates this event. The OFBJP and HSS have a history of operating in New Jersey and funding Hindutva groups in India. A report by the South Asia Citizen Web detailed the financial information and expenditures of 24 Hindu nationalist-affiliated groups. The report found that seven Sangh-affiliated charitable groups spent nearly $160 million on their programming, which includes sending funds to Hindu nationalist groups in India.

Just weeks ago, the New Jersey chapter of Param Shakti Peeth of America, a charitable non-profit, organised a fundraiser at a Ridgewood church featuring Hindu nationalist ideologue Sadhvi Rithambara. The church reverend, Robert Miller, cancelled the event just days in advance after learning of Rithambara’s background. Last year, New Jersey legislators went as far as honoring the World Hindu Council/Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP), a group that has continually tried to downplay its links to Hindu nationalists in India despite organising — and then cancelling after facing pressure — a series of events hosting known Hindu nationalists.

In 2020, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Indian IT firm, Nityo Infotech, following a recruiter’s email specifying to not recruit Muslims. Local school board races have also seen Hindutva influence: Two Hindu-American locals and a New Jersey board of education member, Nitang Patel, signed onto anti-Muslim flyers that were later distributed to Gujarati households in Piscataway, a suburb of Middlesex County, in the lead up to the town’s 2019 Democratic primary. A School Ethics Commission later found that Patel should be censured for violating multiple provisions of the School Ethics Act.

In another instance, Audrey Trushcke, a professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, came under fire for pointing out that Hindutva groups in NJ were inspired by fascists and Nazis.

Hindu nationalist groups also hosted then-Republican nominee Donald Trump in Edison for a charity event in the weeks before the 2016 election. At the event, he praised India for helping fight terrorism, a phrase that has become code for institutionalising Islamophobia through crackdowns on Muslims. The Pennsylvania chapter of the VHP hosted a “Modi Victory Celebration Dinner” in 2014, a sharp contrast to its claims of being a benign group with no political leanings.

“We must prepare to either kill or be killed,” Hindu nationalist and religious leader Swami Prabodhananda Giri said last year at a conference in New Delhi, prompting an investigation by India’s Supreme Court — a court that is predominantly occupied by Hindu judges. Muslims and other minority groups in India have faced existential threats since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi consolidated power with his reelection in 2014, and Genocide Watch has warned of an impending genocide of Muslims in India.

At its core the Hindutva movement, which has been broiling since the colonial partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, is both a Hindu nationalist as well as an anti-Muslim movement that goes largely unchallenged by democracies around the world. In the US, elected officials wine and dine with Hindutva-affiliated groups like the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HPAC), and in New Jersey, specifically, elected officials like Frank Pallone march and shake hands with Hindutva-leaning groups like the IBA.

If democracies around the world continue to ignore the rising threats of Hindutva, India’s 204 million Muslims could face ethnic cleansing. As its influence grows among New Jersey’s Indian diaspora, communities that once boasted of success risk creating a hostile environment and an increase in anti-Muslim attacks and harassment.

Dina Sayedahmed is the Communications Manager at CAIR-NJ, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organisation.

Hamzah Khan is the legal research intern at CAIR-NJ and a student of international relations at Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

Anti-boycott laws are an affront to free speech. They also don’t address antisemitism

Anti-boycott laws are an affront to free speech.     They also don’t address antisemitism.

A NorthJersey.com exclusive article.

Published July 26th, 2022 | By Hamzah Khan

In a world where there are hundreds of companies manufacturing and selling the same product, the freedom to choose a brand is, under ordinary circumstances, basic. But in New Jersey, legislators have taken that right away.

For years, the New Jersey Legislature has wielded undue influence over political discourse regarding boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), a grassroots movement launched by Palestinian civil society to pressure Israel to comply with international law. In 2016, the state Assembly approved an anti-boycott bill, after it passed unanimously in the Senate, requiring the state to divest its pension funds from any company involved in a boycott of the state of Israel. Critics at the time warned of the violations to free speech that this posed for New Jersey residents, but then-Gov. Chris Christie nevertheless signed it into law.

Six years later, this law has been used multiple times to punish companies that choose to boycott Israel due to humanitarian concerns, with Unilever being one of the most recent cases. After a two-year campaign by multiple advocacy groups, Unilever’s subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, announced last year that it would no longer sell its ice cream in the illegally occupied Palestinian Territories, including Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying that it was inconsistent with the company’s values to have its ice cream sold in Occupied Palestine.

After the announcement, New Jersey officials moved quickly: Within two months, they announced that the state would divest its pension fund from Ben & Jerry’s Englewood Cliffs-based parent company, Unilever. By December, New Jersey officials began to divest nearly $182 million in Unilever stocks and bonds. Fearing significant financial loss, Unilever changed course last month and sold its Ben & Jerry’s brand and trademark rights in Israel so that the company can continue to sell ice cream in Occupied Palestine, in direct contradiction to what the original ice cream company founders, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, wanted.

In 2018, the same anti-BDS law was also used against Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, which held around $44 million of New Jersey’s state pension fund. The Danish bank refused to do business with two Israeli military contractors, Elbit Systems and Aryt Industries, because of their operations in Israeli settlements, which violated the company’s social policies. Danske Bank stated that they were not boycotting Israel as a whole, but only those two companies. As was the case with Unilever, even though Danske Bank argued that it was not boycotting the state of Israel, the generality of the New Jersey anti-boycott law still allowed the state to punish the bank.

New Jersey is one of more than 30 states that passed anti-BDS laws. Defenders of these laws say they are meant to stop antisemitism, but advocacy groups, including Anne Frank House, differentiate between criticisms of the Israeli government and antisemitism, with the former being political and human rights-focused and the latter being condemnable. Others have warned that conflating the two — criticisms of Israel and antisemitism — is an encroachment on free speech and an attempt to stifle political debate and advocacy for Palestinian human rights. In adopting an anti-boycott law, New Jersey is blatantly attempting to flag any criticism of Israel as unacceptable, even if it goes against the U.S. government’s own classification of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The New Jersey Legislature should do more to stop actual antisemitic hate crimes rather than target a nonviolent grassroots political movement aiming to pressure a foreign government to end its human rights abuses. The reality is that these laws prohibit criticisms of Israeli government policies. In an ironic turn of events, New Jerseyans can criticize their own government, but not the Israeli government.

Boycotts have been instrumental in human rights campaigns both within the U.S. and around the world. Boycotts played a prominent role in ending segregation in the U.S. during the civil rights movement and were even protected by the United States Supreme Court. Supporters of the BDS movement, which was started by Palestinian activists, note that it is modeled after the boycott movements against South Africa, which helped end the apartheid regime in that country.

The state of New Jersey is employing a glaringly obvious double standard when it engages in sanctions against Iran and Russia on the grounds of human rights abuses, yet continues to support Israel even though reputable human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, find the country guilty of crimes against humanity. The state recently invested $20 million in Israel bonds as an “affirmation” of its confidence in the state of Israel and its economy, Gov. Phil Murphy said at the time.

At the end of the day, the right to boycott is essential to free speech, and the state’s hypocrisy only serves to strengthen human rights abusers abroad while diminishing freedoms at home.

Hamzah Khan is a legal intern at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New Jersey Chapter.

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CAIR, CAIR-NJ Offer Condolences on Passing of Zarinah Shakir

CAIR, CAIR-NJ Offer Condolences on Passing of Zarinah Shakir

(WASHINGTON D.C., 2/6/23) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today offered its condolences on the passing of media personality and community activist Zarinah Shakir.

Shakir was the producer of an Interfaith television program and former producer/host of “The Struggle Continues” on WPFW 89.3FM radio, WDC (Pacifica Network). She produced two documentaries about African-American Pioneer Muslim women on WDC. Shakir studied Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications at San Francisco State University and Creative Arts Interdisciplinary (graduate) at San Francisco State University. In 2014, she was awarded Best in Media during the Golden Minaret Awards.

SEE: DCTV Member Zarinah Shakir on CNN 

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“To God we belong and to Him we return. We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Sister Zarinah Shakir. Sr. Zarinah was a great friend of CAIR and a tremendous asset and inspiration for the Muslim and interfaith communities. She will be greatly missed.” 

CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

“To God we belong and to Him we return. The New Jersey Muslim community mourns the death of Sr. Zarinah Shakir. She was supportive of CAIR-NJ and a warm presence in our community. We will miss having her contribute her wealth of knowledge and experience at future events.”  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END

CONTACT: CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell, 404-285-9530, e-Mitchell@cair.com; CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448, rmccaw@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ismail Allison, 202-770-6280, iallison@cair.com

CAIR-NJ Welcomes State Senate’s Passing of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution, Calls on Assembly to Follow Suit

CAIR-NJ Welcomes State Senate’s Passing of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution, Calls on Assembly to Follow Suit

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 2/3/2023) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed the State Senate’s passing of Senate Joint Resolution [SJR105] designating January of each year as “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey and calls on the Assembly to follow suit and pass Assembly Joint Resolution [AJR194].

Earlier this month, CAIR-NJ joined New Jersey community leaders and coalition partners at the Senate Chambers in support of the Senate Joint Resolution. Late last year, CAIR-NJ testified in support of the resolution, calling attention to the state’s growing Muslim population.

SEE: CAIR-NJ, Community Leaders Testify in Support of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution

The joint resolution was sponsored by Senator Pennacchio (LD-26) and Senator Stack (LD-33) and co-sponsored by Senator Bucco (LD-25), Senator Durr (LD-3), Senator Turner (LD-15), Senator Gopal (LD-11), Senator Greenstein (LD-14), Senator Lagana (LD-38), Senator Pou (LD-35) and Senator Zwicker (LD-16).

It calls upon local government agencies and interested government organizations to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and education programs acknowledging, promoting awareness of, and appreciating Muslim Americans and recognizing the contributions of New Jersey Muslims.

SEE: Pennacchio Bill to Establish Muslim Heritage Month in NJ Advances

New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the U.S., at 3 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. New Jersey also leads the way for local representation, with over 40 elected officials. Last year, the state elected the first ever Muslims to the New Jersey State Legislature, Assemblywomen Sadaf Jaffer (LD-16) and Shama Haidar (LD-37).

Still, however, anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise. CAIR-NJ received over 160 calls for help in 2022 alone. The joint resolution seeks to push back against anti-Muslim bigotry by celebrating American Muslims.

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP said:

“Given the growing population of Muslims in New Jersey, it is only appropriate that the State Legislature recognize and acknowledge that diverse and vibrant community.

“We are excited to see the resolution move through the Senate, and we are optimistic that the State Assembly will do the same. We are hopeful that New Jersey will soon recognize January as a month dedicated to celebrating Muslims.

“In tandem with our coalition partners and community members, we call upon the Assembly State and Local Government Committee to hold a public hearing on the Assembly Joint Resolution [AJR194] and release it from the Assembly Committee so that it may move to an Assembly voting session and pass.”

In August last year, Senator Cory Booker submitted a resolution to recognize Muslim American heritage month.

SEE: CAIR-NJ Welcomes Senator Booker’s Resolution to Recognize Muslim-American Heritage Month

Coalition Partners:
American Muslims for Democracy

American Muslims for Palestine-New Jersey

Black Lives Matter – Paterson

Bergen County Islamic Education Center
Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University

Center for Security, Race and Rights

Council of Imams in New Jersey

Faith in New Jersey
ICNA Council for Social Justice

Indian American Muslim Council

Islamic Center of Morris County

Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, Inc.

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

League of Women Voters of New Jersey

Make the Road New Jersey
Maroc Organization

Masjid Al-Imam

Masjid As’Habul Yameen Inc

Masjid Muhammad – Newark

Masjid Shuhada

Masjid Ul Wadud of Montclair

Muslims 4 Peace
Muslim League of Voters of New Jersey
New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice

New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children

Newark Communities for Accountable Policing

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association

New Jersey Muslim Voice for Progress
New Jersey Sisterhood

North NJ Democratic Socialist of American BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group

Northern NJ Jewish Voice for Peace

Palestinian American Community Center

Salvation and Social Justice

Teaching While Muslim

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END          

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592

CAIR-NJ to Attend NJ Senate Voting Session on Muslim Heritage Month Resolution

CAIR-NJ to Attend NJ Senate Voting Session on Muslim Heritage Month Resolution     

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 02/01/2023) — On Wednesday, Feb. 2, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) will join New Jersey community leaders at the Senate Chambers in support of the Muslim Heritage Month resolution [SJR105]. State Senators are expected to vote on the joint resolution at 2pm.     

WHEN: Wednesday, February 2, 2023, at 2 p.m.                

WHERE: 135 W State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608     

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592           

The joint resolution, which designates January of each year as “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey, is sponsored by Senator Pennacchio (LD-26) and Senator Stack (LD-33) and co-sponsored by Senator Bucco (LD-25), Senator Durr (LD-3), Senator Turner (LD-15), and Senator Gopal (LD-11). It calls upon local government agencies and interested government organizations to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and education programs acknowledging, promoting awareness of, and appreciating Muslim Americans and recognizing the contributions of New Jersey Muslims.     

SEE: Pennacchio Bill to Establish Muslim Heritage Month in NJ Advances  

SEE: New Jersey lawmakers considering resolution to establish January as Muslim Heritage Month   

New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the U.S., at 3 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. New Jersey also leads the way for local representation, with over 40 elected officials. Last year, the state elected the first ever Muslims to the New Jersey State Legislature, Assemblywomen Sadaf Jaffer (LD-16) and Shama Haidar (LD-37).         

Still, however, anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise. CAIR-NJ received over 150 calls for help in 2022 alone. The resolution seeks to combat anti-Muslim bigotry by celebrating Muslim Americans and shedding a positive light on the community. 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.                 

   

END          

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592 

 

CAIR-NJ Welcomes Watchung Borough Board of Education Decision to Mark Eid ul-Fitr as a Day Off for Students

CAIR-NJ Welcomes Watchung Borough Board of Education Decision to Mark Eid ul-Fitr as a Day Off for Students    

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 01/27/2023) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed Watchung Borough Board of Education’s decision to mark April 10, 2024, as a professional development day for staff and a day off for students to mark Eid ul-Fitr.       

“The calendar that was revised by the curriculum committee recognizes April 10th as Eid ul-Fitr. What happens is that we’re going to have — the suggestion came forward to have it as a professional development day, a day which is closed for students,” a board member said at the Tuesday meeting.         

“The original calendar had October 11th the Tuesday as a professional development day and that day is moved to April 10th in next year’s calendar.”      

SEE: Watchung Borough BOE Meeting | Jan. 2023      

A neighboring town, Warren Township, also did the same in December 2022.      

SEE: Warren Township Board of Education Approves Calendar, Includes Eid and Diwali      

This decision comes after nearly two years of advocacy efforts by students and parents.       

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Outreach Coordinator Zaid Hussein said:      

“Including Eid in the 2023-2024 calendar is a victory for educational inclusion and for Muslim students who have long advocated for this necessary accommodation.      

“We are hopeful that Watchung Region High School will follow suit and give their Muslim students the opportunity to balance their academic obligations with religious duties.       

“While designating Eid as a professional development day for staff is a step in the right direction, we hope to see the Watchung Board of Education move in the direction of adopting Eid as a permanent calendar holiday instead in the future.”   

In a statement, Watchung Hills Regional High School student Noora Kuran said:      

“The win in Watchung and Warren is one small step for Watchung Hills and one giant leap for minorities nationwide.      

“I hope that what we’ve accomplished inspires others to do the same. It is beautiful to see our hard work for the last few years pay off.”      

Students and parents at Watchung Hills Regional High School are still entangled in a year and a half-long struggle to have Eid recognized as a holiday.       

SEE: Watchung Hills Regional High School BOE Meeting | Sept. 2022      

Many other school districts nationwide are also adding Eid holidays to their calendars.  

Washington, D.C., based CAIR offers a booklet, called “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.         

[NOTE: There are two major “Eid” holidays for Muslims. Eid ul-Adha (EED-AL-ODDHA), commonly referred to as just “Eid,” is associated with the pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, and commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s command. The holiday is celebrated with prayers, small gifts for children, distribution of meat to the needy, and social gatherings. During Eid ul-Fitr (EED-AL-FITTER) or “feast of fast breaking” holiday at the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan, Muslims offer public prayers, exchange social visits and seek to strengthen family and community bonds.]    

  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.           

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592    

CAIR-NJ to Join Community Members at Swearing-In Ceremony of New Jersey’s Longest-Serving Muslim Mayor

CAIR-NJ to Join Community Members at Swearing-In Ceremony of New Jersey’s Longest-Serving Muslim Mayor   

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 01/05/2022) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) will join community members at the swearing-in ceremony of Mohamed Khairullah for his fifth term as mayor of Prospect Park on Saturday, Jan. 7. Councilmen Mohammed Hussain and Anand Shah will also be sworn in.   

Mayor Khairullah is said to be the longest-serving Muslim Mayor and elected official in New Jersey. Throughout his 17-year tenure, Mayor Khairullah paid frequent visits to refugee camps in Bangladesh to assist with essential supplies distributions and contributed to humanitarian aid relief in Syria.        

WHEN: Saturday, January 7, at 12 p.m.        

WHERE: Prospect Park School No. 1 at 94 Brown Avenue, Prospect Park, NJ 07508 (Enter gymnasium through North 9th Street entrance) 

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, smaksut@cair.com, 908-267-3119     

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP said:         

“The increase in Muslims seeking office and winning elections is part of a national trend. With at least 40 Muslims serving in elected office, New Jersey is leading the way in local representation.     

“Muslims are a rapidly growing population in the United States and the election and re-election of American Muslims leads to much-needed political representation for our communities.”         

Mayor Khairullah will be sworn in by Assemblywoman Shama A. Haider (D), one of the first Muslims to serve in the New Jersey State Legislature. Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D), who is also one of the first Muslims to serve in the New Jersey State Legislature, will swear in Councilman Mohammed Hussain. Councilman Anand Shah will be sworn in by Mayor Sam Joshi of Edison Township. 

Photo left to right: Councilman Anand Shah, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, Councilman Mohammed Hussain

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.              

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, smaksut@cair.com, 908-267-3119 

CAIR-NJ, Community Leaders Testify in Support of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution

CAIR-NJ, Community Leaders Testify in Support of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution 

Update: This press release has been updated on December 20 to reflect coalition partners.

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ 12/20/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today joined community leaders at the State House Annex in Trenton and testified in support of the Muslim Heritage Month Resolution [SJR105].  

The resolution, which designates January of each year as “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey, is sponsored by Senator Pennacchio (LD-26) and Senator Stack (LD-33), and co-sponsored by Senator Bucco (LD-25). It calls upon local government agencies and interested government organizations to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and education programs acknowledging, promoting awareness of, and appreciating Muslim Americans and recognizing the contributions of New Jersey Muslims.  

SEE: State lawmakers consider bill to name January ‘Muslim Heritage Month’

New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the U.S., at 3 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. New Jersey also leads the way for local representation, with over 40 elected officials. Last year, the state elected the first ever Muslims to the New Jersey State Legislature, Assemblywomen Sadaf Jaffer (LD-16) and Shama Haidar (LD-37)   

Still, however, anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise. CAIR-NJ received over 150 calls for help in 2022 alone. The resolution seeks to combat anti-Muslim bigotry by celebrating Muslim Americans and shedding a positive light on the community. 

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP said:      

“New Jersey ranks number one in the nation in the percentage of its population that is Muslim, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).   

“If the State of New Jersey truly takes great pride in its religious diversity, it is critical to pass Senate Resolution SJR105, which would recognize the Muslim community, a large population within the state. 

“We also intend to pursue an amendment to the resolution name, from ‘Muslim Heritage Month’ to ‘American Muslim Appreciation Month.’ In doing so, we hope to debunk the myth that Muslims are a monolithic group who inherit their faith.”  

In a statement, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice Amy Torres said: 

“New Jersey leads the nation in our diversity. New Jersey’s population is first in the nation for our percentage of practicing Muslims, many of whom are first, second, and third generation immigrants.  

“Due to centuries of Islamophobia and marginalization, Muslim New Jerseyans experience many of the same structural and societal harms that other communities of color do. This diverse and growing community deserves visibility, celebration, and respect, and NJAIJ is proud to support SJR105 to designate January as Muslim Heritage Month.”  

In a statement, Director of Democracy Organizing at the New Jersey Working Families Party Arati Kreibich said:  

“NJ Working Families Party is glad to support SJR105 denoting Muslim Heritage Month in New Jersey because our diversity becomes our strength and a bulwark against hate when we accept, educate and celebrate our rich cultural traditions.” 

The Los Angeles City Council adopted a Muslim American Heritage month resolution in 2014. It recognizes the contributions and activism of the Muslim American community.  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.  

Coalition Partners:
American Muslims for Democracy
Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University
ICNA Council for Social Justice
Maroc Organization
Muslims 4 Peace
Muslim League of Voters
New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice
New Jersey Muslim Voice for Progress
New Jersey Sisterhood 

END       

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmeddsayedahmed@cair.com551-221-5592

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Zakat Eligible

Numerous Muslim scholars have confirmed that Zakat is payable to organizations that exist to serve the Muslim community by protecting their rights. This is because the work done by CAIR (and other such organizations) can be classified as fi-sabilillah, which is one of the eight categories of Zakat recipients detailed in the Quran (Chapter 9, Verse 60).

Zakat Eligible

Numerous Muslim scholars have confirmed that Zakat is payable to organizations that exist to serve the Muslim community by protecting their rights. This is because the work done by CAIR (and other such organizations) can be classified as fi-sabilillah, which is one of the eight categories of Zakat recipients detailed in the Quran (Chapter 9, Verse 60).

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American Muslims in New Jersey have much to celebrate. For many years the American Muslim community has added to the rich cultural diversity we greatly value in New Jersey. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is an important vehicle for recognizing the accomplishments of New Jersey's Muslims.
Cory Booker
U.S. Senator New Jersey
CAIR is not for that stranger. CAIR is for you. Even as mayor I was stopped and harassed at JFK along with my wife and four children. My phone was confiscated. CAIR was there to stand up for me and retrieve my phone. Supporting CAIR means making sure that they are there for you when you need them in the future.
Mohamed T. Khairullah
Mayor Prospect Park
Since its inception, CAIR's New Jersey Chapter has been committed to advancing its parent organization's mission to provide necessary services to Muslim Americans that have contributed to their personal and professional wellbeing. CAIR-NJ has long been a champion for the interests of its community, striving to protect their civil liberties and offering them numerous educational opportunities.
Chris Christie
Former Governor of New Jersey
As Governor, I commend the leadership and volunteers of CAIR-NJ for their hard work and dedication to advance civil liberties for countless individuals and for their unwavering dedication to endure the wellness of our society.
Phil Murphy
Governor New Jersey
The work of CAIR and its partners ensures that the rights of all Americans remain protected. Now, more than ever, it is our duty to expose and dismantle Islamophobia and to push back against all types of hate.
Bonnie W. Coleman
Member of Congress
I commend your commitment to engage, embrace and value all communities and I am confident that your efforts will bring greater understanding and tryst to our communities. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the Muslim community in mu district in this endeavor.
Frank Pallone Jr.
U.S. Senator New Jersey
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