CAIR-NJ, IAMC Welcome Teaneck Municipal Government Statement, Anticipate Educational Meeting on Hindutva
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 10/29/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) joined community advocates at a town council meeting in Teaneck on October 25, 2022, to condemn the rising tide of far-right Hindutva nationalist ideology in New Jersey and draw local officials’ attention to it. The municipal government has subsequently published a joint statement on the matter.
SEE: Town Council Meeting, Teaneck, NJ. October 25, 2022
In a joint statement on behalf of the Teaneck Council, Mayor James Dunleavy said:
The hatred that lies within some extremist communities visited Edison NJ where a symbolic nod toward hatred against Muslim groups was rightfully condemned far and wide.
The oppression of minorities in India is deeply concerning, and The Teaneck Town Council recognizes this for many Teaneck families whose relatives are directly affected by it.
These dangerous, supremacist ideologies have no place in Teaneck or New Jersey, and the Council is disturbed by their growth and the fear felt by local Teaneck residents — many with family suffering around the world.
The Teaneck Town Council has always valued what we have learned through positive interaction with community members and we re-commit to continue the work of bridging our divides and standing against hatred and extremism, wherever they take root.
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive DirectorSelaedin Maksut said:
The Teaneck Town Council statement is a step in the right direction in the fight against Islamophobia and Hindutva, a far right-wing genocidal political ideology. New Jersey elected officials are beginning to understand that Hindutva is also a local issue given its growth in the state, and as their own residents have families affected by this persecution in India.
In partnership with the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and local Teaneck Muslim leadership, we are working with Teaneck municipal officials to organize further education on the threat Hindutva presents to Indian minorities and Muslims.
Finally, we call on those in government who remain silent on Hindutva to educate themselves and break their silence.
In a statement, IAMC-NJ PresidentMohammed Jawad said:
“The recent incidents of hate and violence orchestrated by Hindu rightwing in Edison (NJ), Anaheim (California), and Leicester (UK) makes it amply clear that Hindutva is not just an Indian problem but a significant threat to peace in our diverse communities. More than ever, it’s important to start the conversation on Hindutva in our backyards and educate Americans about this dangerous and divisive ideology that aims to rip apart our social fabric. The resolve shown by Teaneck Council to fight anti-Muslim hate and bigotry is commendable. We are determined to work with our coalition partners in New Jersey and nationwide to organize similar educational programs and meetings on Hindutva. We will not let the US become a safe haven for hateful ideologies.”
At the September 20th Teaneck Council meeting, a man from Parsippany spouted anti-Muslim beliefs that coincide with the Hindutva ideology. The man implied that Muslims enjoyed the attacks on 9/11 and said that Muslims in India rape Christian women and kill them after having babies. Councilman Pagan and Councilman Kaplan previously included a condemnation of this man in a larger statement for “statinghateful mistruths about Muslim people in India, the United States, and around the world”.
CAIR-NJ welcomes the condemnations of this man’s hateful speech, the apologies made by council members and the mayor at the end of the October 25th meeting for not condemning this man sooner, and the invitations to learn more about this issue.
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
CAIR-NJ Condemns Lacey Man’s Racist Tirade, Threats Targeting Black Amazon Delivery Driver, Calls on Amazon to Protect Workers
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ 10/07/2022)) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned a Lacey man’s alleged racist tirade and threats targeting a Black Amazon delivery driver.
John Vincentini, who is white, allegedly threatened to shoot the driver in the head after reportedly asking him why he was in his neighborhood and whether or not he knew that it was a “racist neighborhood,” according to a statement from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Vincentini had followed the Amazon delivery driver into the cul-de-sac where he was making deliveries and parked his car in a way that blocked the Amazon truck, according to authorities.
Vincentini surrendered himself to police later that day. He was processed and released on a summons pending future appearances in Ocean County Superior Court, investigators said. He was charged with bias intimidation and terroristic threats.
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“This is a deeply disturbing incident of racism. It’s astounding that someone can boldly make such threats.
“While we are relieved that the incident did not escalate, we call on Amazon to provide better protection for its workers.”
CAIR-NJ Condemns Alleged Anti-Muslim Comments by Long Hill Township Officials Targeting State’s First Muslim Police Chief
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 10/6/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today condemned anti-Muslim comments allegedly made by Long Hill Township municipal elected officials targeting Ahmed Naga, the police department’s chief and the first Muslim police chief in New Jersey.
Ahmed Naga, who has been Police Chief since August 2018, says he’s endured ongoing and repeated acts of harassment, discrimination, heightened scrutiny, and a hostile work environment, according to a notice of tort claim his attorney filed with the township. The tort notice states Deputy Mayor Guy Piserchia – who was mayor at the time – asked Naga at a Sept. 11, 2021, memorial service if he was “a member of the Taliban.”
On Dec. 7, 2021, Councilman Victor Verlezza allegedly made a crude and racist remark about Muslims during a phone call with Naga, the tort notice states. In an April 27, 2021 meeting in the chief’s office with two members of the committee and an assistant, Piserchia made another racist comment, the notice alleges. “Piserchia (said) if he had known I was Muslim he wouldn’t have promoted me,” Naga wrote to his attorney, according to NJ Advance Media. Piserchia “has also said to other township committee members that he doesn’t want to see a mosque in Long Hill,” Naga claimed in the email.
In May, Naga also overheard one councilman say to another, “The chief doesn’t understand (how) to turn the other cheek. It’s not his religion,” according to NJ Advance Media. In an email to his attorney, Naga said Piserchia was serving as mayor when he allegedly made the racist remark during a Sept. 11 memorial service.
The current mayor, Matthew Dorsi, “has not made any racial slurs directly to me,” Naga said. However, Dorsi’s name is listed in the tort notice as one of the elected officials who allegedly “caused injury.”
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“The comments reportedly directed at Chief Ahmed Naga are entirely unacceptable. Asking someone whether they are part of the Taliban — at a 9/11 service, no less — is not only insensitive, but also a dangerous leading question.
“It’s also disconcerting to see that an elected official would allegedly say that he does not want to see a mosque in his township. We’ve seen several cases of mosques being blocked by elected officials in recent years, and this begs the question: If Long Hill’s Muslim community were to propose a mosque in the township, what would the city council’s response look like?
“We call on Long Hill Mayor Matthew Dorsi to support Naga. We also look forward to seeing how litigation unfolds in the coming weeks, and hope that this establishes anti-discriminatory precedent moving forward.”
CAIR-NJ Welcomes Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP as the Inaugural Government Affairs Manager
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 10/6/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today announced that Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP has been named as its inaugural Government Affairs Manager.
Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP hails from Newark, NJ by way of Burkina Faso, West Africa. She is an alumna of New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where she earned her Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management & Policy (MPA-PNP)’ 20 with a specialization in Advocacy and Political Action. She is also a graduate of The College of New Jersey School of Humanities and Social Sciences (TCNJ HSS) ‘18, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology with a specialization in Non-Profit and Community Development and double minors in Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies.
Ouedraogo’s professional experience includes: the Office of Governor Philip D. Murphy, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NYC Commission on Gender Equity at the Office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kasirer LLC, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
In addition to her professional experiences, Ouedraogo devotes her time as a volunteer Strategic Compliance Coordinator for the Bayiiri Network, a collective focused on cultivating the next generation of Burkinabé professionals. She is also an avid reader who enjoys traveling. She has travelled to thirteen countries.
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo said:
“As a staunch advocate for social justice and a proud Burkinabè – American, Black, Muslim woman, I am honored to utilize my skills and talents to serve my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.
“Through my new role as the Government Affairs Manager at CAIR-NJ I hope to foster meaningful change for New Jersey’s diverse and vibrant Muslim ummah in the political, advocacy, civic engagement, legislative and public policy arenas.”
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“Our office is thrilled to onboard Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP, who brings with her a wealth of expertise and knowledge on the intersection of social justice, advocacy, and political action.
“Madina will help us advance key public policy and legislative efforts here in New Jersey that will help progress the American Muslim community.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, 908-267-3119, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 Coin 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.